Difficult, But Not Impossible
On Friday, March 14, 2014, Ukiah Police Sergeant Rick Pintane was at work in Superior Court, standing with the Williamson family to witness the sentencing of Jerred Hernandez, who received 32 years to life in prison for killing Michael Williamson.
This sentencing was the final step in a difficult – but not impossible – 12 year and 8 month investigation, search for a murder suspect.
In the summer of 2000, Michael Williamson was living in a quiet west-side neighborhood. He was living with his mother Maggie and father Norman, a retired English teacher at Ukiah High School and Mendocino College.
At age 44, Michael was a recovering addict who was using his newly gained sobriety to mentor others to so they could become sober. Sadly, that changed in August of 2000, when Michael was attacked and killed in his home.
On August 2, 2000 at 7:14 am, the Ukiah Fire Department was called to a west-side Ukiah home to investigate a report of smoke. During the investigation, firefighters discovered a body inside the residence.
That dreadful discovery started what would become a complex 12-year-and-8-month investigation and manhunt to find the person responsible for this horrific crime.
An extensive investigation indicated that the victim, Michael Williamson, was brutally attacked and beaten to death with a baseball bat. The Williamsons also had several items were taken from their home, including credit cards, jewelry, and personal checks.
After collecting witness statements and evidence at the home, Michael’s friend Jerred Hernandez emerged as a suspect.
UPD investigators soon discovered that after the homicide, Hernandez assumed his brother’s name, withdrew money from his brother’s bank account in Ukiah, and fled the area, reportedly to Southern California and then Mexico.
Hernandez’s family members were uncooperative and leads to his whereabouts quickly went cold. The FBI was brought in to assist in locating Hernandez, but they too were unsuccessful.
Even though the department had a suspect in the case, and the help of the FBI and other federal authorities, UPD investigators couldn't locate Hernandez.
But that didn’t stop one of the investigators working on the case: Detective Rick Pintane.
Throughout the years, Detective Pintane volunteered to continue investigating this horrific crime. He reviewed every piece of evidence, every statement, and every lead.
Detective Pintane followed the evidence that showed Hernandez had been traveling through much of the United States – California, Arizona, and into Mexico; but with no solid leads as to Hernandez’s current whereabouts.
As time went on, Detective Pintane traveled throughout California interviewing old witnesses, locating new witnesses, following up on leads; and pressing Hernandez’s family members who Detective Pintane suspected had information, but weren’t being truthful.
While Detective Pintane remained assigned to this case, over time this investigation was passed from agent to agent within the FBI. Each time a new agent was assigned to the case, Detective Pintane would personally go meet the new agent to review the case with them.
As important as apprehending Hernandez was, Detective Pintane’s relationship with the Williamson family was equally important.
From the moment Detective Pintane began working on this case, he made it a priority to contact the Williamsons and give them regular updates as to the status of the case. Even when there were no leads, he made a point to meet often with the Williamson family to assure them that the investigators at UPD cared about solving this crime.
To help locate Hernandez, Detective Pintane reached out to America’s Most Wanted, requesting assistance, and they agreed to help. A film crew arrived and interviewed Detective Pintane and the victim’s family, who were able to tell their story nationally when it aired on television in February of 2012.
After serving numerous search warrants, and reviewing thousands upon thousands of pages of phone records, documents, and social media activity, investigators caught a break: a search warrant on a family member’s social media site finally paid off.
On April 1, 2013, Detective Pintane located a photograph of Jerred Hernadez, who was using the alias Rogelio Ramirez. Hernandez was now working odd jobs and living in Ensenada Blanca, Mexico. The social media site showed he was in regular contact with family members, who had not been forthcoming about Hernandez’s whereabouts.
Detective Pintane began working tirelessly with federal and state agencies, in an attempt to apprehend Hernendez and have him brought back to stand trial.
On May 5, 2013, Hernandez was arrested by Mexican authorities and soon extradited to the United States with the assistance of the FBI.
Finally, in May of 2013 after 12 years and 8 months of countless search warrants, phone calls, investigative leads, rumors, and follow-up investigations, Detective Pintane was able to interview Hernandez at the San Diego County Jail.
Initially Hernandez pled not guilty by reason of insanity to Michael Williamson’s murder.
In February of 2014, the district attorney coordinated a plea bargain agreement to bring this investigation to a conclusion. Murder suspect Jerred Hernandez changed his plea from not guilty by reason of insanity to guilty of murder, arson, and using a dangerous weapon – a baseball bat – to kill Michael Williamson.
On Friday March 14, 2014, 32-year-old Hernandez was sentenced to serve 32 years to life for this horrific crime.
Norman Williamson, the victim’s father, publicly thanked Rick Pintane during Hernandez’s sentencing and Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster said he was, “Very pleased with the engaged approach Rick Pintane took with the Williamson family during the investigation and court proceedings.”
One of the things that most people don’t know about this story is the passion and dedication Detective Pintane brought not only to the criminal investigation, but to supporting the entire Williamson Family.
This commitment went much further than just apprehending Hernandez. Detective Pintane made sure the victim’s family, the Williamsons, were always informed and encouraged to play a vital role in solving this crime, even through the court proceedings.
Here in Mendocino County we are extremely lucky to have law enforcement professionals, who are committed to solving the most difficult of criminal cases – difficult – but clearly not impossible.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.