Fresno police detective came face to face with kidnapping suspect

A Fresno police detective came face to face with the man now accused of robbing and kidnapping a retired Fresno County environmental health director shortly after the crime.
February 19, 2014 8:19:26 PM PST
A Fresno police detective came face to face with the man now accused of robbing and kidnapping a retired Fresno County environmental health director shortly after the crime.

"My first initial reaction was like 'This is the guy in the video. Here's my suspect,'" said detective Ben Barnes.

Renard Brooks actually initiated his first meeting with police after the crime, and with his mother nearby, he gave them an alibi.

Tim Casagrande walked out of court a different man than he was at the beginning of October last year. After testifying in the trial against the man accused of breaking into his home, stealing his guns, jewelry, and cash, and kidnapping him, Casagrande could have closure soon. He's come a long way from where he was a little while after the crime.

"That night when we were doing the walk-through, (he was) still nervous, upset, just wasn't the same as of today," said Barnes. "He was pretty distraught."

Within hours, Barnes had this picture from the ATM of a Downtown Fresno bank where the suspect forced Casagrande to help him withdraw hundreds of dollars. And a little while after the image hit the news, Renard Brooks popped onto the radar.

Just recently out of prison, he arranged to meet Det. Barnes at a parole office. Barnes thought he recognized Brooks right away, but in his first interview Brooks claimed he was somewhere else at the time of the crime.

"He provided his information on his alibi on where he was at," Barnes said. "We had to confirm that to either make him a prime suspect in the case or eliminate him."

Barnes let his new suspect go, then set out to disprove the alibi. He says a series of images from FAX buses showed brooks leaving Southwest Fresno early that morning, getting off close to Casagrande's house less than half an hour before the crime started. That led to a search warrant and Brooks' arrest, and more evidence.

"A Seiko watch in his left front pants pocket," said Fresno police officer Josh Bowling, who arrested Brooks. "I also found a gold colored necklace around his neck and hanging from that necklace was a golden ring."

The jewelry belonged to Casagrande.

Closing arguments in Brooks' trial are expected Thursday. Brooks faces life in prison if he's convicted on all counts.


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