Body of 88-year-old man found in car trunk in canal

DELANO, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) An 88-year-old man was found dead Thursday in the trunk of his car, submerged in a canal, according to Delano police. Officials say that's why they're investigating the case as a homicide.

Loved ones are saddened by the loss of John Espinoza, and stunned at the circumstances of his death.

"All I can say is I hope that he didn't suffer," son Andy Espinoza told Eyewitness News. "I don't want a lasting memory of my father that he suffered, and he was a victim of somebody that wanted to do him harm."

John Espinoza, who owned a barber shop in town, had been reported missing Wednesday. His body was discovered Thursday evening in the Friant Canal east of Delano.

Delano Police Commander Lynn Venables said the California Highway Patrol got the report about the car, and his department was called out. "After they pulled the vehicle from the water, they discovered he was in the trunk of the vehicle, so we're considering this a homicide at this point," he said.

At the barber shop Espinoza owned, the current operator and customers are shocked and saddened.

"He's always been a humble person," Augie Martinez said of Espinoza. "I feel kind of frustrated. Why would they do that to an elderly man that was good to the community?"

Andy Espinoza said his father had a number of barber shops in Delano over the years, starting with one in the old "China Town" area. "He was the only Mexican barber, and all the rest were Filipino," he said. The son also said his father had businesses on the west side of town where neighbors felt comfortable gathering.

John Espinoza also served in the Navy. "He was very proud of this country," the son said. "He was a veteran of World War II."

And, the elder Espinoza was active with a number of local groups and boards over the years. "He was connected with a lot of people," the son said. "My father represented an age that had history here."

Delano Police said they are following leads. On Friday, Eyewitness News saw detectives at a rental house near Espinoza's barber shop.

He was last seen at about noon on Wednesday and the car was found in the canal at about 8:30 p.m. on Thursday. "We're asking the community, if anyone saw him in this time period to let us know," Commander Venables said.

The public can call the Delano Police Department at (661) 721-3356.

Andy Espinoza thinks the public will respond, and he thinks someone may have seen something. "My father had a routine, he was a man that was very organized and had a routine," he said. "I know the people want to help him."