A 28-year-old Benicia man was arrested near Big Sur on Sunday on suspicion of auto burglary and a false claim that his family had been killed, Monterey County sheriff’s officials said. At 7:30 a.m. Sunday, the California Highway Patrol notified deputies about victims of an auto burglary in the Big Sur area who flagged down a passing CHP car, sheriff’s Deputy Michael Smith said. Deputies dispatched to investigate the burglary on state Highway 1 were asked to first check on the welfare of a man parked along the highway who used a call box to report his family had been killed and thrown into a river.
When they arrived to contact the man, deputies noticed that his car was similar to the one that the victims of the auto burglary said the suspect was driving, according to Smith. The man then told deputies that his family was fine but that he had not slept for almost a week, Smith said. The victims of the car burglary were brought to the scene and they identified the man’s car as the vehicle they saw driving away, according to Smith.
The man, Oscar Mendez Zarate, 28, of Benicia, admitted he tried to steal the victims’ car because he said he was almost out of gas, sheriff’s officials said. A window of the victims’ car had been smashed, wires pulled out from the dashboard and several items stolen from the vehicle, according to Smith. Deputies recovered the stolen property and arrested Zarate on suspicion of making a false report of an emergency, attempted vehicle theft, vandalism and burglary, Smith said. He was booked into Monterey County Jail and held on $10,000 bail, sheriff’s officials said.
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