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Crime News Murders

Suspect Charged With Murdering 'Promising And Bright' Plumber Found In California Mountains

Prosecutors say Rotherie Foster fatally shot Jose Velasquez before allegedly stealing his bank cards and checkbook to make multiple unauthorized transactions. 

By Jax Miller
Killer Motive: What Drives People To Kill?

A California man is accused of murdering a “work acquaintance” whose body was found in the mountains months after he disappeared.

Rotherie Durrell Foster, 37, is facing more than a dozen charges, including first-degree murder, related to the shooting death of Jose Velasquez, 35, according to a joint press conference on Wednesday by Ventura County District Attorney Erik Nasarenko and Sheriff James Fryhoff.

Velasquez, of Camarillo, was last seen in the Thousand Oaks area on July 27 and was reported missing three days later, with officials citing “suspicious circumstances.”

Less than a month later, on Aug. 17, authorities arrested Foster — a two-strike offender also from Camarillo — for the unauthorized use of personal identifying information. Both Foster and Velasquez worked in general contracting, namely plumbing, and were described by Nasarenko as “work acquaintances.”

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Nasarenko said Foster allegedly used the victim’s bank cards and checkbook to make unauthorized purchases and transactions at gas stations and retail stores around Los Angeles and Ventura counties. At this point, the missing persons investigation “escalated” into a homicide investigation, according to Nasarenko.

Authorities subsequently appealed to the public for information on Velasquez’s whereabouts, and friends and relatives also formed search parties and hired a private investigator to no avail, according to the Ventura County Star.

Then, on Oct. 3 — with Foster still in custody — two hikers noticed an “unusual odor” while in the Santa Monica Mountains, off Mulholland Highway in part of unincorporated Los Angeles County, according to Sheriff Fryhoff. They soon found Velasquez’s remains.

Police handouts of Jose Velasquez and Rotherie Foster

A postmortem examination by the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Velasquez was shot multiple times.

Authorities declined to release all aspects of the murder, including where they believed the victim died. 

District Attorney Nasarenko said it took a “comprehensive and thorough” investigation to formally charge Foster with murder. The suspect is also charged with eight counts of identity theft, two counts of forgery, being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and other strike charges.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Nasarenko referred to the crime as a “murder for money case” that was “carried out for financial gain.”

“Jose was an incredibly hard worker who was starting his own plumbing business when his life was viciously and cruelly cut shot,” Nasarenko stated in a press release. “The charges filed today are among the most violent and serious we see in the courthouse and are a result of the strong teamwork between the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office and our prosecutors.”

Velasquez had moved from Virginia to California about five to six years before his death. Relaying information from the victim’s mother, Nasarenko said Velasquez had embarked on a career in general contracting, specializing in remodeling, painting, and electrical and plumbing work.

Nasarenko referred to the victim as an “individual with a promising and bright future” who left behind a mother, stepfather and three siblings.

“According to the mom, who wept as we spoke, he was saving money so that he could help his parents purchase a home in Virginia,” Nasarenko said at the press conference, adding Velasquez’s death was a “tremendous loss to his family, to the county, as well as to all of us.”

Authorities say Foster has a lengthy criminal history which started when he was still a teenager. In 2002, he was sentenced to a 16-year prison term in Sacramento County for a voluntary manslaughter conviction, according to ABC Los Angeles affiliate KABC-TV. In 2004, he was sentenced in the same county to five years for two counts of assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury, plus an additional eight months for battery on emergency personnel.

Nasarenko clarified Foster had been out of custody “for a few years” when Velasquez was murdered.

Records from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation show Foster was paroled in 2018 and released from his supervision in 2020, per KABC-TV.

Jail records show Foster is being held on $250,000 bond and is due back in court on Feb. 2.

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