A Sanger teenager died of a stab wound to the chest early Saturday despite the efforts of a neighbor who ran to help him as he lay bleeding in the middle of the street.
Caleb De La Cerda, who would have turned 18 this Friday, is Sanger's fourth homicide victim this year.
One of the last people to see the teen alive was Cain Marquez, 30, who was awakened by someone shouting for help and ran out of his home at North and DeWitt avenues to try to save the life of a young man he had never seen before.
"He was on his back in the middle of the street, his arms and legs spread out, and there was blood coming out from a puncture wound in the middle of his chest," Marquez recalled Saturday, about 10 hours later. "He wasn't saying anything, but you could tell he was a fighter, gasping for air and fighting to stay alive."
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Kneeling over the young man's body, Marquez pressed down on the wound with his hands until paramedics arrived.
De La Cerda was taken to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, where he was pronounced dead at 12:13 a.m. Saturday.
His body and clothes covered with the victim's blood, Marquez retreated to his home after the ambulance left, washed up and then stayed up until 4 a.m. to answer questions from homicide investigators.
The incident was reported to Sanger police at 11:29 p.m. Friday. Although the stabbing occurred in the city, Sanger police asked the Fresno County Sheriff's Department's homicide unit to handle the investigation, a common practice with some of the small towns in the county.
On Saturday, Sanger police declined to comment on the case.
A sheriff's spokesman said the investigation was ongoing, and that the only information detectives were making public Saturday was that one person was fatally stabbed, a second person had suffered injuries that weren't life-threatening, and no arrests had been made.
Marquez said he was awakened by shouts for help. Outside, he said, he encountered a young man who told him: "Help! Help! Call 911. My friend's been stabbed."
Marquez said a gray-colored car, possibly a Honda and apparently belonging to the victims, was stopped on the west side of DeWitt at North. The car was facing south, and the doors were wide open.
De La Cerda was sprawled on the middle of street in a pool of blood, and another young man was standing over him trying to pick him up, Marquez said.
He said the second man, who appeared to be about a year older than the victim, identified himself as De La Cerda's brother. The man told Marquez that he, too, had been stabbed, but Marquez was unable to see the wounds.
Marquez said he was unable to find out what had happened, but that one or both of De Le Cerda's companions indicated they had been attacked just north of where they stopped to get help.
The killing is the 18th homicide the Sheriff's Department has responded to this year. Thirteen slayings are sheriff's cases, while five others are assists to other agencies: four in Sanger and one at the Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga.
Last year, the sheriff's homicide unit responded to 18 homicides, with 12 sheriff's cases and the six others classified as assists to other agencies.