Judge denies murder trial dismissal motion

Photo by Michael Patrick.

San Benito County Superior Court Judge Steven R. Sanders denied a motion by murder suspect Jose Antonio Barajas to dismiss the charges against him.

The judge denied the motion at a Sept. 25 hearing at the county courthouse, according to District Attorney Candice Hooper. Barajas is next scheduled to appear in court for a pretrial conference Nov. 14; he is scheduled for a jury trial Jan. 27, Hooper said.

Barajas is charged with six counts in relation to the 2014 shooting death of 19-year-old Ariana Zendejas in Hollister. Specifically, he is charged with murder, three counts of attempted murder, kidnapping and shooting at an unoccupied motor vehicle.

Zendejas was shot and killed during a confrontation on public streets between Barajas and another man, according to authorities. Barajas was a passenger in a vehicle chasing another car that had four occupants, including the male driver with whom Barajas had previously been feuding. Zendejas was a passenger in the back seat of the vehicle that Barajas was chasing.

Barajas opened fire with a handgun on the victims’ vehicle near B and West streets, hitting Zendejas with at least one of the bullets, according to police. The driver of the victims’ vehicle drove Zendejas to Hazel Hawkins Hospital, where police responded shortly after the shooting. Zendejas was pronounced dead later that evening.

Barajas fled the area with the two occupants of the vehicle in which he was riding at the time of the shooting, and later left the country, according to police. He was arrested July 12, 2018, in Guadalajara, Mexico in relation to the Hollister shooting. He was extradited from Mexico and flown to San Jose, where he was transferred to the San Benito County Jail.

Barajas remains in local custody without bail.

Barajas’ attorney, Greg LaForge, had argued in a court filing in August that the murder, attempted murder and kidnapping charges should be dismissed due to insufficient evidence. However, this motion was denied at Barajas’ Sept. 25 motion hearing.

Laundromat suspects on trial in March

The murder trial for Sang Ji and Jung Choi is scheduled for March 2020, according to San Benito County District Attorney Candice Hooper.

Before the trial, they are scheduled to appear at San Benito County Courthouse Nov. 22 for a pretrial proceeding.

Ji, 49, and Choi, 45, are accused of killing Sang Ji’s wife Yoon Ji in late 2017. Both suspects are charged with murder and are in custody at the county jail as they await trial. Both have pleaded not guilty to the murder.

Sang Ji and Yoon Ji owned Hollister Laundromat before Yoon Ji’s death. Sheriff’s deputies found Yoon Ji’s remains off Salinas Grade Road between San Benito and Monterey counties, according to authorities. The two suspects were arrested immediately after the remains were found.

Yoon Ji’s daughter and sister, who live in Los Angeles, reported the woman missing on Dec. 2, 2017. The daughter told sheriff’s authorities that she had not heard from her mother for about two weeks, according to police.

Jung Choi was allegedly Sang Ji’s mistress at the time of Yoon Ji’s murder, according to court files.

The suspects have appeared in court multiple times since their arrest. 

Larios returns to court

A Hollister man accused of killing Raul De La Rosa in 2014 will next appear at San Benito County Courthouse Oct. 10 for a hearing to schedule his preliminary examination, according to District Attorney Candice Hooper.

Christopher Larios, 32, is charged with a felony count of murder, in addition to an enhancement for the use of a firearm. The charges relate to the Dec. 23, 2014 death of De La Rosa at a residence on the 2000 block of Scenic Circle in southeast Hollister.

Police arrested Larios when he entered the Hollister police station April 21 and told officers he wanted to make a statement about the 2014 murder. Based on that interview, officers arrested Larios on suspicion of killing De La Rosa.

Larios previously appeared in court on the murder charge Sept. 19, but that hearing was delayed to the Oct. 10 date.

He remains in the county jail in lieu of $1.05 million bail.

Officers have not released any details about Larios’ motive or events leading up to the 2014 murder.

SJB official returns to court

A San Juan Bautista city official who is accused of domestic violence will next appear in court Nov. 12, according to the DA’s office.

San Juan Bautista City Council member Dan DeVries, 54, is charged with battery of a non-cohabiting spouse, assault by any means creating great injury and violation of a court order. The charges stem from a May 24 incident in which a woman called 911 to report that DeVries had assaulted her, according to police.

The incident allegedly happened at a residence on the 400 block of Fifth Street in San Juan Bautista.

San Benito County Sheriff’s deputies arrested DeVries that night on suspicion of domestic violence. He was released on $50,000 bail the same evening, according to authorities.

DeVries last appeared on the charges Sept. 26 at San Benito County Courthouse. He is scheduled to appear in the same courtroom Nov. 12.

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