Ankle monitor clears man of Dos Palos killing, murder charges dropped by DA

The Merced County District Attorney’s Office has dropped all charges against 22-year-old Dylan Ballard, who was accused of killing a Dos Palos man.

Ballard was arrested on Jan. 25 and charged with the shooting death of 23-year-old Elias Vivanco Jr. during a Jan. 19 house party in the 21000 block of Reynolds Avenue in Dos Palos.

Courtesy Merced County Sheriff's Office

But evidence shows a court-ordered ankle monitor Ballard was wearing during the time of the slaying proved he wasn’t anywhere near Vivanco, said Curtis Sok, Ballard’s attorney.

“(The ankle monitor) turned out to be a blessing for him,” Sok said, adding that witnesses expected to testify against Ballard changed statements and were questionable.

During the course of prosecutors’ preparation for the case, they received information about Ballard’s ankle monitor that “made it unlikely he was part of the murder,” District Attorney Kimberly Lewis states in an email response.

Usually, murder suspects remain in jail custody due to the nature of the crime. But Ballard was released from custody on May 14 and showed up to several court hearings before his charges were dropped Friday, according to Merced Superior Court records.

“After reviewing more information about the accuracy of the satellite data used by the GPS monitor in this case, we determined it was appropriate to dismiss the murder charge against Ballard,” Lewis states in her response.

Merced County deputies responded to reports of gunshots at the party in the early morning hours of Jan. 19, according to a news release.

Deputies arrived to find Vivanco and another person and they were both taken to a hospital, the release states. Vivanco died at the scene.

Nearly two months after the slaying, a 19-year-old man Niko Flores was also arrested in connection with the homicide.

But the District Attorney’s Office never filed charges and the Flores was released from custody, according to Merced County jail records.

“We cannot comment on witness statements or other suspects because the homicide investigation is ongoing,” Lewis states in her response.

Sgt. Sam Becerra said detectives are looking into additional suspects who may have been involved.

“It’s still an open investigation,” Becerra said.

Vikaas Shanker is an award-winning reporter covering education, crime and courts for the Merced Sun-Star and Los Banos Enterprise. After growing up in Naperville, Illinois and graduating from the University of Kansas, he reported in several Chicago suburbs before moving to Merced County in 2016.