FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A disturbing trend was revealed after the latest homicide arrest in the City of Fresno; nearly one-third of the city’s murders are unhoused people.
That info came to light after the arrest of 37-year-old Felicia Quiroz, an unhoused woman police say is responsible for burning 59-year-old Eric Bennett alive in an irrigation culvert on April 24.
Bennett was also homeless, but it wasn’t clear what the exact cause of the fire was to investigators initially.
“Homicide detectives worked along with Fresno Fire. Ultimately, Fresno Fire investigators furthered the investigation, and located several individuals that were present, including one particular person, Felicia Quiroz,” said Lt. Paul Cervantes with the Fresno Police Department.
After an exhaustive investigation, a break came thanks to Fresno’s Code enforcement, which had a camera in the area.
Authorities say its video showed Quiroz appear to set Eric Bennett on fire.
“On August the 30th, Fresno Fire Investigators coordinated with the District Attorney’s Office and secured an arrest warrant for Felicia Quitoz, including arson and murder,” said Cervantes.
Quiroz was arrested on September 5 at an encampment near Ashlan and West Avenues.
Eric Bennett was the eighth unhoused person killed in the city so far in 2023.
That makes up 30% of Fresno’s 26 homicides so far in the year.
At the same point in 2022, there were six homeless homicides in the city.
That’s a 25% increase.
Eric Bennett’s sister shared that her brother was a barber who lost everything when COVID-19 hit.
She says he was a father, an uncle, and a son.
“Thank god for giving the strength and the determination to this wonderful team of investigators. For never giving up, and for continuing until they found a way to get justice,” said Kim Uriarte, Eric Bennett’s older sister.
Deputy Fire Marshall Jay Tracy said the tragic case has hit the department hard.
“It makes it a little tougher. So, seeing the human side versus the paperwork side,” a choked-up Tracy said.
While an arrest has been made, officials ask that if you know anything about the incident you call the Fresno Fire Department.