Detectives say 20-year-old Erick Hernandez Camarillo and 37-year-old Laura Hernandez killed her husband, who was also the student's step-dad.
Sheriff Mark Pazin is calling this case the "nearly million dollar murder." That's because the victim had three life insurance policies worth almost a million dollars. Investigators say his wife and step-son killed him to collect that money.
This exclusive video shows detectives searching the home near Dos Palos where 40-year-old Alberto Macias died after being shot twice in the head on March 14th. The woman who owns the Santa Rita Park property and lives next door did not want to be identified ... but she says Macias had been fixing up the house and planned to rent it afterward. "He was a very good man, good hearted person. He was down and out in his luck and I was having a little trouble, and he came to my rescue."
But as Macias tried to work his way out of financial trouble, investigators say his wife, Laura Hernandez, and step-son Erick Hernandez Camarillo began plotting a different way to make money ... by murdering him and cashing in life insurance policies worth nearly one million dollars.
Sheriff Pazin said, "There were 3 individual policies that had been taken out respectively during the years of 2005, 2006, and just recently another one for 10,000 in 2009."
What makes the case even more shocking is that 20-year-old Camarillo graduated as the Salutatorian of Merced's Golden Valley High School in 2008, and is now a student at U.C. Merced.
U.C. Merced Spokesperson, Brenda Ortiz said, "He is currently a sophomore. He is a Biological Sciences Major, and he is not currently enrolled in our summer session."
U.C. Merced Freshman, Michaela Tyler said, "That's kind of crazy, that scares me, I thought this was a safe campus."
Detectives say Camarillo claimed he was actually busy with school work at the time of his step-father's murder. But Pazin says evidence collected by the major crimes unit, including cell phone data, indicates otherwise.
"I think he was killing somebody quite frankly, yes," said Sheriff Pazin.
Camarillo and his mother are both booked in the Merced County Jail on murder, conspiracy, and insurance fraud charges. They're being held without the possibility of being released on bail.