Bakersfield police launch murder investigation after Eyewitness News probe

Nicholas Dean, who was taken to the hospital on March 1, 2017 and died a short time later, is seen in a provided photo. His death is now being looked into as a homicide.

Tina Dean said she knew right away her brother, Nicholas Dean, had been murdered.

Her family called police, called the coroner and told anybody who would listen that her brother had been strangled.

Three weeks went by, and with her brother's body due to be cremated, a family friend suggested she call the Eyewitness News tip line.

"If I'm wrong, I'm wrong," she said. "I'd rather be wrong, but let's come out with the truth."

Nicholas Dean, 31, who suffered from cerebral palsy, was rushed from the home where he lived with caretakers to Memorial Hospital late on March 1. He didn't make it through the night.

First responders at the home in the 3200 block of Dore Drive had found him not breathing and without a pulse. The exact cause of his death was uncertain, so officials report he was sent to the coroner's office for an external, or noninvasive, autopsy.

After that, his body remained at the coroner's office.

Eyewitness News investigated Tina Dean's claims and forwarded information to the Bakersfield Police Department, where investigators requested a second autopsy, a more invasive "internal" autopsy.

Police were initially sent to the 911 call on Dore Drive but left when it appeared to be only a medical emergency. A second look at Nicholas Dean's body on March 24 revealed unavoidable evidence that he'd been killed.

A pathologist reported to police that Nicholas Dean had suffered injuries that could only have been suffered during a strangulation.

The murder of a sibling is tragic for any family, but for Tina Dean and her many siblings, it's also sadly familiar. Their large blended family of biological and foster siblings were saddened in 2014 by the murder of another brother, Jonathan Dean, who was 29 years old.

George Dean, Jonathan Dean's adopted father, pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter in that case.

Authorities said George Dean hired someone to kill Jonathan Dean. He also pleaded no contest to an inappropriate sexual relationship with a minor who authorities called a co-conspirator in Jonathan Dean's death. His plea deal brought a six-year prison sentence. The accused killer is still awaiting trial.

Tina Dean still wrestles with the first case, which she said the family has largely avoided talking about.

"I've got a lot of questions, a lot of questions I'll probably never get the answers to," she said.

While nothing can bring either brother back, she's cautiously optimistic that the justice system will find and convict Nicholas Dean's killer.

"Things are actually starting to happen, and it's actually going to see some justice in the end," she said.

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