Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department detectives announced the arrest of a 33-year-old transient from Riverbank for the murder of a man found stabbed in a homeless camp along the Stanislaus River in that community several weeks ago.
On Saturday, June 18, around 6 p.m., deputies from Riverbank Police Services responded to a 911 call of a deceased person in a homeless camp near the river. When deputies arrived they found Justin Rainwater, 43, deceased on a trail by the river and it appeared that he had been stabbed. Rainwater was known to frequent the homeless camps, but lived in Riverbank.
According to an Aug. 3 press release, Stanislaus Sheriff’s investigators developed information since the incident that 33-year-old Lawrence Nicholas Srutek of Riverbank was a suspect in the investigation. Srutek was homeless and lived in the homeless camps next to the Stanislaus River.
Preliminary investigation led detectives to a robbery investigation from April 12 when Srutek was arrested for stealing money from Rainwater while being armed with a hatchet. Detectives believe the homicide was retaliation over a robbery arrest.
On Aug. 2 at 1 p.m. Stanislaus Sheriff and Riverbank Police Services detectives arrested Srutek for murder not far from the homeless camp where Rainwater was found dead.
On Aug. 3 Srutek made a court appearance for his arraignment and pleaded not guilty. During the hearing, Stanislaus County Deputy District Attorney Wendell Emerson stated his office was not seeking the death penalty even though detectives believe the motive for the murder was witness retaliation because Rainwater had provided information to police in the April robbery, a special circumstance under California Law.
Srutek is being held in Stanislaus County Jail with a $5 million bail. His next court appearance is set for Monday, Aug. 22.