Jailed on $5 million bail, a Riverbank man will face his next court appearance later this month. He is being held on a charge of murder in connection with the death of his wife in late July.
To hear the daughter and a good friend of murder suspect Roque Palomino, 53, murdering his wife of 27 years, Cynthia D. Palomino, 49, would be one of the last things they thought would have ever occurred.
“They had a very good relationship and it was a very happy household,” said Cynthia J. Palomino, the couple’s 26-year-old daughter who lived down the street from their Sierra Avenue home in Riverbank. “All my life, they never fought.”
Palomino said she heard of her mother’s murder from Stanislaus County Sheriff’s deputies around 8:30 on Monday night, July 27. The following morning sheriff’s investigators were serving a search warrant on the couple’s home.
When she examined the home, there was nothing out of place or no signs of a fight or struggle.
“They took my mom’s iPad, her phone and their computer,” Palomino said, reading from a sheriff’s department paper at her parent’s house.
Palomino said that on Monday morning her mother told her younger brother that she was going with her father to the family ranch on Victory Avenue, between the cities of Oakdale and Escalon and near the Stanislaus-San Joaquin County line.
She said her father, a farmer, grew almonds and other fruit for his business, Palomino Family Farms.
Palomino believed that because her father had a brain hemorrhage at the beginning of the year and was worried because he hadn’t been able to work as much as he should have, it might have affected his actions that day.
“I’m totally surprised at all of this,” Palomino said. “I don’t know why any of this happened.”
Victor Aguayo, 55, rents a home on the Palomino ranch which consists of almond orchards and orchards of five different fruit trees. He also considered himself a good friend of Roque Palomino and said they would share lengthy talks.
Aguayo said that around 10 a.m. on the morning of the homicide, Roque Palomino was at the entrance gate to the ranch with his wife Cynthia in Palomino’s work truck.
“The thing that was out of place was that she was in the cab of the truck,” Aguayo said. “She usually follows him in her car. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them together in the truck.”
Aguayo also said Roque was “acting strange,” introducing him to his wife who he had met several times previously, and that his wife was also “out of sorts” appearing apprehensive and withdrawn.
He said he didn’t see the couple again, including at 5 p.m. when he noticed the truck still back in the orchards on the property.
At 8:30 p.m. he was awakened by sheriff’s deputies at his front door asking him to identify Roque Palomino’s truck which was partially submerged in the canal across from the residence. Deputies told Aguayo that Palomino was in the backseat of a patrol unit, having been arrested walking down Victory Avenue and had fought with deputies in the process.
According to the sheriff’s press release, Roque had injuries to his face and when the deputy asked him how he had been injured Roque attempted to take the deputy’s handgun out of his holster. The deputy had to deploy his Taser to detain and arrest Palomino.
Aguayo said he was asked questions about Palomino’s wife while deputies started searching the grounds on foot and using an overhead helicopter with a spotlight.
“I overheard one of their radios that she was found and they used the code I recognized for a dead body,” Aguayo said. “They told me she was killed by ‘blunt trauma’ and that it looked like she was hit with a shovel or something.”
According to Aguayo, the sheriff’s department left the body in the orchard overnight and did not come back until the following day to process the scene. He said after investigators left on Tuesday, he and another friend went back to the scene and saw blood on the ground.
“He was the nicest guy I met in my life,” Aguayo said of Palomino, pondering what could have happened that day in the orchard.
Aguayo said Roque Palomino was “never right” after the brain injury he suffered in January.
“He had the injury and was taking all those meds,” Aguayo said. “He never got any help and had a lot of stuff in him. That day wasn’t him.”
Roque Palomino was booked into Stanislaus County Jail on homicide charges by the sheriff’s department on July 27. He remains in custody after a court hearing on July 29 when he was given $5 million bail, because according to prosecutors, that based on the nature of the crime and the potential sentence if convicted, there would be a high risk of flight to avoid prosecution.
His next court date, according to sheriff’s department records, is Monday, Aug. 24.