Deadly month in Merced County as law enforcement investigates five homicides


Merced County Law Enforcement agencies are investigating five homicides that have happened in recent weeks around the county and in the city of Merced. 

Investigators from Merced Police are looking into two recent homicides that took place on Friday. 

The latest two murders took place in the city of Merced.

The first death, a homicide, began as a home invasion on Tucaloy Court at around midnight, according to Merced Police Department. 

Lajawn Cokley, 34, was shot and killed in an home invasion on, while hours later, police responding to a welfare check on Bixby Way, where they found a 50-year-old man who had died inside a bedroom inside the home. 

Merced Police Lieutenant Jay Struble said the victim died of trauma but would not go into further details.

Friends have identified the victim as Jeff Bergeron, a board member of the Merced Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Agency.  

Bergeron’s truck was stolen from his home but was found in the county the next day. 

“I don’t ever recall having two homicides in the same day in 25 years that I have been here,” Struble said. 

Police still trying to work on a description or a motive to why Bergeron was murdered. 

Struble said Oakland Police helped the department with the arrest of James Martin in connection with the murder of Cokley. 

He said there could be up to four more suspect involved in the home invasion turned homicide investigation. 

Struble said last year, the city only investigated one homicide. 

It’s a different story for Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke, who is dealing with three homicide investigations in the county, the first one happening on New Years Day at a homeless camp, the second happened just weeks after at a party in Dos Palos and the most recent one happened last week, where a body was discovered in a canal in the county. 

“There’s no link between the three. All three are independent. The victims were targeted and we got leads that we’re working on,” Warnke said.  

Warnke said these murders happening so early in the year is troubling but his county isn’t the only county in the state that is dealing with murders. 

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