Hearing set for defendant in Zendejas death

Jose Antonio Barajas, who was arrested in Mexico last summer on suspicion of murdering a teenage girl in Hollister in 2014, will next appear in local court Feb. 6.

Jose Antonio Barajas

The hearing is scheduled as a “pre-preliminary” hearing, according to records at the San Benito County Courthouse. The court has further scheduled a preliminary hearing for Barajas for Feb. 11.

Barajas, 24, was arrested July 12, 2018 in Guadalajara, Mexico in relation to the shooting death of Ariana Zendejas. He was He was deported from Mexico and flown to San Jose, where he was immediately transferred to the San Benito County Jail, according to authorities. He has remained in custody at the local jail since his arrest.

Zendejas was 19 when Barajas allegedly shot her to death. Hollister police said in 2014 that Barajas had fired from one vehicle into another in which Zendejas was a passenger, at B and West streets the night of Aug. 1. Authorities identified Barajas as the prime suspect shortly after the shooting, then learned he had fled to Mexico.

Barajas is also charged with kidnapping Vanessa Flores, who was with Barajas when he fled to Mexico, according to authorities. Flores, a friend of Zendejas, appeared alone at the U.S.-Mexico border on Feb. 7, 2015.

In total, Barajas faces one charge of murder, three charges of kidnapping and one charge of shooting a firearm at an occupied motor vehicle, according to the criminal complaint filed against him in Superior Court. Each charge carries special allegations for using and firing a firearm in the commission of each crime.

If convicted of all charges, Barajas faces life in prison.

Vehicular homicide

A Hollister man who killed one of his sons and injured another in a February 2018 drunk driving accident pleaded guilty late last year to a list of charges, including manslaughter.

Jesus Mora, 30, was sentenced to 13 years in prison at a hearing in November. On Oct. 19, he pleaded guilty to two charges of manslaughter—including a charge of gross vehicular manslaughter—as well as child endangerment and DUI causing injury in relation to the fatal Feb. 25 accident, according to records at San Benito County Courthouse.

On Feb. 25, according to the California Highway Patrol, Mora was driving westbound on McCloskey Road in a GMC Sierra with his two sons in the front seat, when he drifted off the roadway and collided into a utility pole on the side of the road.

Mora’s younger son, age 6, was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident, and the other boy, age 7, was flown to a hospital with serious injuries, according to authorities. Officers suspected Mora of driving in a drunken state when they contacted him at the scene of the collision, and arrested the driver.

Mora has been in custody at the county jail since his February arrest.

Three-year sentence

Rafael Rojas was sentenced to three years in prison Jan. 3 for three felony counts related to a vehicle chase and armed standoff with police in Hollister on July 5, 2018.

Rafael Rojas

At an earlier hearing at San Benito County Courthouse, Rojas pleaded no contest to the charges of resisting an executive officer, evading an officer and negligent discharge of a firearm, according to authorities. The judge handed him a three-year prison sentence at a Jan. 3 hearing.

The morning of July 5, Rojas was driving on East Fourth Street in Hollister when he refused to stop for a sheriff’s deputy who attempted to pull him over for a traffic violation, according to police.

The deputy pursued the vehicle through Hollister. In the area of Paseo Drive, just west of Veterans Memorial Park, Rojas fired a single gunshot from his vehicle, according to authorities. The gunfire did not injure anyone.

In the area of the 1300 block of Marne Drive, Rojas stopped the car and ran on foot into the neighborhood. Hollister Police arrived to assist deputies.

As the first deputy pursued Rojas on foot, he noticed the suspect held a handgun in his right hand, according to authorities. The deputy and officers ordered Rojas to drop the gun and surrender, but he refused. Rojas allegedly challenged the officers to shoot him.

Rojas then entered the backyard of a relative’s home, and a tense armed standoff with police followed, according to authorities.

Ultimately, officers and deputies used their cell phones to establish communication between Rojas and a family member, according to the sheriff’s office. The family member was able help officers convince Rojas to drop the gun and surrender.

Rojas was arrested without significant injury to himself or others, according to police.

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