Suspect in Kern County manhunt spent time in Merced County Jail

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Authorities are spending a 15th straight day searching for the man accused of kidnapping, murder and shooting two Kern County deputies. They identified the suspect on Tuesday as Benjamin Ashley. The 34-year old is believed to be armed and dangerous.

Ashley has a long criminal history that spans from Southern California to Yosemite. He was booked into the Merced County Jail on Aug. 15, 2014, after being arrested by federal park police in Yosemite for a warrant out of Southern California.

"He was held here for a very short time on a PC 148 warrant, which is resisting, obstructing or delaying a peace officer within the course of his own duties," said Sgt. Delray Shelton with the Merced County Sheriff's Office.

Ashley was cited and released hours later with orders to appear in court in Glendale. But now the 34-year-old is facing much more serious charges that have led to a massive manhunt. Authorities say he held three men at gunpoint inside a Kern County cabin on July 28 and murdered a dentist who was found shot to death inside another cabin two days later. He's also accused of wounding two deputies who were struck by gunfire during the search on Aug. 1.

"This is a high priority for law enforcement in general to be able to effect an arrest on anyone of that nature," said Shelton.

Investigators say fingerprints and DNA helped them identify Ashley as the suspect. They've been focusing on the Kelso Valley area, but the Kern County Sheriff's Department received one tip that he was seen in Madera on Tuesday, and agencies across the state have been told to be on the lookout.

"We are on alert if he does come in our county, and we are ready should mutual aid become necessary," said Shelton.

Madera police say they looked into that reported sighting in their city but do not believe it was Ashley. And the Merced County Sheriff's Office says it has had no reported sightings in this area.
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