The founder of Dulcich & Sons, the Delano, California, farming company best known for Pretty Lady grapes, was shot and killed April 11, reports The Bakersfield Californian.
Jakov Prosper Dulcich, 84, was found with multiple gunshot wounds around 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday in the area of Woollomes Avenue and South Browning Road in Delano, according to the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.
Investigators determined Mr. Dulcich’s SUV and the suspect vehicle had been traveling on South Browning Road when an occupant of the suspect vehicle fired into Mr. Dulcich’s SUV. The SUV continued south on South Browning and hit another vehicle that had pulled to the shoulder.
The suspect vehicle drove to the scene of the crash and became involved in a physical altercation with the driver of the third vehicle, according to sheriff’s officials. The suspect fired at least one round but did not hit the driver, who fled into a nearby vineyard.
The Kern County Sheriff’s Office made an arrest early Saturday morning in connection with the shooting. The department said that Delano resident Mariano Fernandez Perez was identified as a suspect. He was arrested by deputies from the Lamont substation during a traffic stop on Saturday and has been booked into the Kern County Jail on suspicion of murder.
The Sheriff’s Office didn’t say whether they are pursuing other suspects in the case.
In 1959, Mr. Dulcich and his wife Antoinette emigrated from Croatia to Chile, says Sunlight International, which markets Pretty Lady grapes, on its website. After spending a year in Chile, they settled in Delano, California, where they worked in vineyards owned by Mr. Dulcich’s uncle, saving enough to invest in their own small piece of farmland in 1975. Ten years later, they were able to devote themselves full-time to tending their own farm. As the farm grew and prospered, so did the Dulcich’s family, says Sunlight. Their two sons, Peter and Nick, followed in their parents’ footsteps, learning how to grow grapes almost before they learned their ABC’s.
In 1995, the company introduced Pretty Lady, now available in supermarkets across North America. Soon, countries all over the world were importing grapes grown by Dulcich & Sons, and in 1996, the family established Sunlight International Sales to manage grape exports.
Today, Nick and Peter continue to expand the farm their parents founded. Peter now leads the growing and operations of 6,000 acres of vineyards and a multimillion-dollar, state-of-the-art storage and distribution center, while Nick manages Sunlight’s sales and marketing division to ensure consumers worldwide can enjoy Pretty Lady grapes.
“Delivering the finest table grapes in the world is a responsibility we have always taken to heart,” said Mr. Dulcich on the company’s website. “It’s our goal to continue this tradition of quality for the next 50 years.”