Suspected killer of Ethan Morse, ex-Merced DA’s son, identified

The suspected killer of Ethan Morse, son of Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse, was identified as 26-year-old Dagoberto Penaloza by the Atwater Police Department on Monday.

Atwater Police Chief Michael Salvador held a press conference Monday morning to announce the latest discovery in its investigation into Morse’s death.

Morse was killed on March 15 in Atwater around 10 a.m. when he was shot multiple times near Fir Avenue and Winton Way. He died en route to Merced’s Mercy Hospital.

Penaloza, last known to reside in Palo Alto, is also wanted in connection with an attempted homicide in Menlo Park.

Atwater Police secured a $1 million arrest warrant for the Morse killing. Authorities also have an outstanding $11 million warrant for the Menlo Park attempted murder.

Atwater Police said Penaloza works in landscaping in both the Bay Area and the Modesto-Red Bluff area.

Morse, the son of a former District Attorney, had his own brushes with the law prior to his death. He was arrested and accused of murder in connection with a shooting at a house party.

That criminal case ended with a judge declaring him factually innocent. The younger Morse initiated a lawsuit against Merced County, a Sheriff’s lieutenant, and a deputy for violating his civil rights by recklessly lying to a judge to obtain an arrest warrant.

Morse won the suit and was awarded more than a half-million in damages.

Those with information about the Penaloza are urged to call Atwater Police at (209) 357-6396 or Crime Stoppers at (855) 725-2420.

Staff reports from The San Joaquin Valley Sun staff.