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UC Merced Student, Mom Arrested in Step-Dad Murder

By Norma Yuriar

Merced County, Calif.{} (KMPH News) A UC Merced student and his mother are under arrest for what investigators are calling a bizarre murder scheme.

37-year old Laura Hernandez and her son 20-year-old Erick Hernandez Camarillo are in the Merced county jail on suspicion of murder, conspiracy and insurance fraud.

The victim was Hernandez's husband and Camarillo's step dad.

The Merced County Sheriff's Department is dubbing the case... "the nearly one million dollar murder."

Investigator say the suspects took out three separate life-insurance policies, adding up to nearly a million dollars, then killed the victim to collect the money.

On March 14, at around 1:30pm deputies responded to a home in the 7900 block of Azuza Road.{} They found 39-year old Alberto Rodriguez Macias dead inside the house.{} Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin said the victim had been shot twice in the head.

"When we got there we found the window had been smashed, but it had been smashed from the inside out," Pazin said.

Pazin believes the victim's wife and step son killed Macias for financial gain.

"There was nearly a million dollars worth of insurance on Mr. Macias and he's now dead," Pazin said.

Hernandez initially told investigators she was with her husband the day he died, he was hungry and so she went across the street to get him some food.{} She said her husband was already dead when she got home.

"There were certain indicators on the body that he had been dead longer than when she had left him, the timeline just wasn't jiving," Pazin said.{} "It was all over the board."

Investigators describe Hernandez as "relatively composed" during the ordeal.

"Then all of a sudden became distraught," Pazin said.{} "I'm not going to say a best supporting actor role would be proper on this, but there are some items we believe, caused us concern and allowed further investigation into this."

Camarillo graduated as salutatorian at Merced's Golden Valley High School in 2008.{} He was currently enrolled at UC Merced.{} The 20-year old told investigators he was at school the day his step-dad died.{} But, Sheriff Pazin said that alibi didn't pan out.

"I think he was killing somebody, quite frankly."

Investigators say it took them nearly three months to make an arrest in Macias's murder because detectives had to go through cell phone records among other evidence.{} Sheriff Pazin says the family was going through a difficult time financially and had recently lost their home to foreclosure.

Hernandez and her son remain at the Merced County Jail - without the possibility of being released on bail.

REPORTER CAN BE REACHED AT NYURIAR@KMPH.COM OR (559) 453-8850.

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