Hays, 25, was taken into custody at a rural residence in Stanislaus County by Elk Grove police officers about 9 p.m. Wednesday with help from the Sacramento County Regional Gang Task Force and the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department.
He was booked into Sacramento County Jail shortly before midnight on suspicion of homicide, robbery and carjacking.
He was wanted since Sunday for the shooting death of Joseph Oropesa, 19, who was shot in the head in an altercation outside of Dimple Records on Elk Grove-Florin Road.
Witnesses said Hays fled in a black Ford Explorer that he had taken from Oropesa. The SUV was recovered during the arrest.
The weapon used in the killing, however, was not recovered. The SUV will be thoroughly searched to see if the gun is hidden somewhere in the vehicle.
Elk Grove police spokesman Officer Chris Trim noted that Hays had changed his appearance. A new booking photo reveals that he is now bald with stubble on his face.
An earlier photo showed Hays with shoulder-length hair, a goatee and mustache.
"He obviously had changed his appearance," said Trim. "He knew that he was wanted. He was probably making plans to get out of Dodge, as they say."
Trim said he could not reveal how authorities traced Hays to Stanislaus County.
PHOTO CAPTION: Ryan Hays (before and after arrest)