SAN JOSE — A man long jailed in connection with a violent crime spree in the summer of 2021 — which left a man dead, several people seriously injured and an East Bay police officer recovering from a vehicle assault — has been linked to the presumed shooting death of a Coyote Creek man who has never been found, authorities said.
Ricardo Padilla, 34, has been charged with the 2021 murder of 43-year-old Samuel Torres even though Torres’ body is still missing. Court documents show that authorities are not hopeful about recovering his remains, based on evidence indicating that Padilla arranged — from jail — for the body to be exhumed from a shallow grave then dismembered and scattered across the South Bay.
The only other instance in modern Santa Clara County history where a murder charge was filed without a victim’s body involved the infamous case of Sierra LaMar, the Morgan Hill teen who was kidnapped and raped by Antolin Garcia-Torres in 2012. She has not been found despite extensive community-led searches in South County.
Padilla has been held without bail at the Santa Clara County Main Jail since his arrest on July 4, 2021 near Coyote Creek, after he allegedly ditched a handgun while fleeing San Jose police officers trying to contact him. That is also the same day Torres was reported missing, though investigators now believe he was shot and killed in the previous week.
Court records show that Padilla was charged in 2021 and 2022 with two assaults during an alleged summer crime spree that ended with the July 2021 arrest. Last week, the district attorney’s office charged him with Torres’ killing and the fatal May 31, 2021 shooting of 49-year-old Thomas Calamia, along with two other assaults from that month.
Padilla was scheduled to be arraigned on the new charges Tuesday in a San Jose courtroom.
Two summers ago, with Padilla was securely behind bars because of a criminal history that had him in and out of jail and prison over the past decade — for convictions covering assault with a deadly weapon, evading and resisting police officers, auto theft and illegal weapons and drug possession — San Jose police detectives methodically tied him to the slew of violent crimes.
That included Calamia’s killing near West Virginia and Prevost streets just south of downtown. Padilla was linked to the deadly shooting through a car that was described by Calamia before he died and corroborated by surveillance video in the area, according to a detective’s investigative summary backing the murder charge regarding that death.
He is also suspected of stabbing a person nearby at Second and Margaret streets on May 9 of that year. The investigation also implicated him in a May 11 assault outside a 7-Eleven on Bird Avenue, and in a stabbing near Coyote Creek that same day.
On June 4, 2021, Padilla is alleged to have rammed his car into a Livermore police motorcycle officer during a traffic stop in that city, prompting an attempted murder arrest warrant to be issued for him in Alameda County. The officer suffered moderate injuries. On June 22, police say he shot and wounded a man on Berkeley Way off South Jackson Avenue in San Jose.
Court records show that after his arrest, Padilla was charged July 6 in Santa Clara County with illegal weapons and drug possession and having burglary tools, and was jailed without bail. About a week later, he was charged with attempted murder and auto theft in the May 9 stabbing.
Padilla was charged with the June 2021 shooting the following February, when prosecutors filed three assault charges against him for the shooting victim and two other victims who were not hit, according to court records.
It was in the wake of Padilla’s arrest that detectives learned about Torres’ presumed death. A second police investigative summary accompanying the murder charges alleges that Torres was reported missing on the same day Padilla was arrested, by a relative who told police that Torres might have been shot and killed near Wool Creek Drive near Coyote Creek.
But Padilla was not yet a suspect in the case, which initially was strictly a missing-persons report. Early searches of the area did not turn up evidence of a crime or signs of Torres, police wrote in the summary.
In the next month or so, police received multiple tips claiming that Torres had been shot and killed near the creek, and identified Padilla as the shooter. The case was transferred to the homicide unit, and detectives contacted one of the initial tipsters who claimed to have been with Torres sometime in the last week of June 2021 when they split up while running away from a loose dog at an encampment. according to police.
That witness said he ran into a tent and a few minutes later, heard two gunshots. When he emerged from the tent, he reportedly told detectives he found Torres’ body, but ran off out of fear for his safety.
Police state in the investigative summary that two more witnesses implicated Padilla in Torres’ death, including one who claimed that Padilla admitted to killing Torres and burying him behind his encampment along the creek. That witness also reportedly told detectives that after Padilla’s arrest, he saw two men digging in the spot that Padilla had identified as the burial location.
The witness also recalled one of the men describing how he dug up Torres’ body, “dismembered it, placed the parts in plastic bags, and disposed of the body parts in dumpsters and storm drains.” Padilla appears to have arranged for the exhumation in part through a jail call to his cousin about three weeks after he was arrested, according to the investigative summary.
With that detailed description, authorities say they used ground radar equipment to identify three possible shallow graves in the area, and recovered some clothing, but no signs of Torres’ remains. Still, detectives, and now prosecutors, have moved forward in accusing Padilla of killing him.
Anyone with information about Padilla for investigators can contact the SJPD homicide unit at 408-277-5283 or email Detective Sgt. J.J. Vallejo at [email protected] or Detective Mike Harrington at [email protected]. Tips can also be left with Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers at 408-947-7867 or at svcrimestoppers.org.
Check back later for updates to this story.