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Monday, Oct 28 2013 05:37 AM

Ridgecrest lives intersect, with tragic result

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    By AP Photo/Ridgecrest Police

    Sergio Munoz

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BY STEVE LEVIN Californian staff writer slevin@bakersfield.com

Sergio Alberto Munoz lost his marriage, his kids and his job. He'd just gotten out of jail. Friday morning, he decided to, in his own words, "wreak havoc."

Once he'd killed one person and wounded another at about 5 a.m., he turned to Facebook to let everyone know his plans:

"To all friends got tired of cops lieng and putting me in jail ... you lucky (expletive) i havent found you just killed 2 snitches ... and his girl."

The girl was Brittany Matheny, an aspiring model, a 22-year-old who hoped her looks would be a ticket out of Ridgecrest.

Munoz also was looking for a way out of Ridgecrest. He hoped it would be with guns blazing.

Munoz, 39, got his wish, shooting Matheny to death and wounding three others, then leading authorities on a wild car chase through Ridgecrest and south on Highway 395 before dying in a hail of bullets in the desert.

Two days later, with Kern County sheriff's deputies and the Ridgecrest police keeping tight reins on information, many questions remained unanswered from a day of terror that forced schools into lockdown and closed businesses along the pursuit route.

Ridgecrest's mayor blamed it on mental health issues; acquaintances of Munoz blamed it on drugs.

In the aftermath, the legacies of both Matheny and Munoz remained frozen in time on social media such as Facebook, where innocuous conversations about new photographs seem out of place with the events of Friday.

Munoz's Facebook page shows he was born in Van Nuys and was an "operator technician" at Searles Valley Minerals. His page lists nearly 300 friends and indicated he liked TV shows such as "That '70s Show," "CSI: Miami" and "Fear Factor."

His main photograph shows him embracing an unidentified woman, along with the word "Love" and a picture of his three children.

Saturday, Munoz's oldest child, daughter Viviana, 15, posted on her own Facebook page:

"Your such a great dad when you were not on drugs ... I remember how you used always try and teach us how to dance all crazy with your chicken legs haha, " she wrote. "You were a good father and person, you just made a sad choice."

Munoz frequented the small house where Matheny lived with her longtime boyfriend, Thaddeus Meier -- and even lived there at one time -- and had recently, according to Meier's sister, Dawn, used and sold heroin at it.

As recently as Oct. 20, police found ammunition and a hypodermic syringe at the house in the 500 block of West Atkins Avenue, and had arrested Munoz on suspicion of felony possession of ammunition and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.

It's unclear how long Matheny lived at the house with her boyfriend. In various postings on social media sites, she characterized herself as enjoying surfing, longboarding, volleyball and hanging out with friends.

"I have a crazy bubbly side to me that everyone just adores," she posted on exploretalent.com, a site for aspiring models.

Her dream, she wrote, was "to become a model and be a role model to other girls, and that dream is slowly but surely starting to become a reality."

After Munoz began his spree at about 5 a.m. and before 7:10 a.m., when his black Dodge Dart was spotted by a Kern County sheriff's deputy, Munoz had taken an unidentified man and woman hostage and put them in the car's trunk.

Munoz evaded the deputy. The ensuing pursuit grew to include the California Highway Patrol and Ridgecrest police. Munoz fired indiscriminately at other vehicles and police, and into the trunk, even stopping once during the chase when the trunk popped open. That was the first time authorities realized there were hostages.

At a Friday press conference, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood had speculated that Munoz was posting to Facebook during the chase.

He was.

Munoz wrote on the site: "Also ... you wanted me dead ... now i will when these pigs find me and like a movie i will go."

After stopping, Munoz sped off again. His final posting came after he stopped a second time:

"High speed chase about to go out like a soldier."

From the front seat, he began firing through the car's back seat into the trunk. That's when the eight officers from three law enforcement agencies fired at Munoz, killing him.

The man and woman in the trunk were taken to Antelope Valley Hospital in Lancaster with major injuries. Their names and conditions were not available Sunday.

Ridgecrest Mayor Dan Clark said Sunday that from what he understood, Munoz "snapped."

"It's a tragedy with a lot to be learned," Clark said. "When stuff like this happens it hurts your heart."

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