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Desert Center shootings suspect released from custody

A young man who pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of a woman found inside a car alongside Interstate 10 near Desert Center was released from custody on his 20th birthday Thursday, following the successful completion of an in-custody substance abuse
treatment program.

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Kyler Jeffrey Arnold, of Chandler, Arizona, pleaded guilty in March to involuntary manslaughter, along with drug and firearm possession charges, in connection with the July 24, 2016, death of Dolores Baez-Meraz, 59, of Nogales, Mexico.

Read: Arizona man pleads guilty to fatally shooting woman on I-10 near Desert Center

Sheriff’s deputies found Baez-Meraz inside a vehicle on the shoulder of westbound Interstate 10, about two miles west of Eagle Mountain Road. She was airlifted to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, where she was pronounced dead.

The shooting was described by Riverside County Superior Court Judge Dean Benjamini as a negligent act. Arnold was not “paying attention” when holding a gun that discharged, killing Baez-Meraz, the judge said.

Investigators from the sheriff’s Colorado River Station and Central Homicide Unit arrested Arnold the morning after the shooting on North Spring Street in Blythe. He was also convicted of bringing cocaine, marijuana and Xanax with him into the Blythe jail when he was booked.

Benjamini gave Arnold a suspended four-year prison sentence in the death of Baez-Meraz, who was described in various letters submitted to the court as a close friend and “second mother” to the defendant. Though he won’t face any more time behind bars, he will be on probation until 2020.

Arnold’s upbringing was described as troubled and plagued with substance abuse problems, according to several character letters filed on behalf of friends and family members.

Read: Arizona man convicted in fatal Desert Center shooting to enter drug treatment program

According to the letters filed with the court, both of Arnold’s parents spent time in prison during his childhood, while his drug problems worsened following the death of his younger brother in a hit-and-run crash in 2012.

Rather than face prison, Arnold was enrolled in the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment for State Prisoners, or RSAT, program, which he successfully completed this year.

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