music in the park san jose

Eliseo Rojas plead guilty Wednesday to killing 73-year-old Ralph
Santos, who was found dead in a mustard seed field off Buena Vista
Road in June 2003, according to his attorney.
Hollister – Eliseo Rojas plead guilty Wednesday to killing 73-year-old Ralph Santos, who was found dead in a mustard seed field off Buena Vista Road in June 2003, according to his attorney.

The guilty plea was part of a long-awaited plea bargain agreement, and now Rojas could testify against Eusebio Ramos, who is also charged with murdering Santos. But the details of the deal were kept under wraps because the judge sealed the agreement, according to Rojas’ attorney, Bud Landreth.

Landreth would not say why it was sealed or how much time in prison Rojas could face. He also wouldn’t say whether Rojas plead guilty to manslaughter, which was the charge proposed in the original plea agreement.

“It was sealed because the judge and the parties wanted it sealed,” Landreth said. “I don’t want to (comment). I don’t want to violate the court’s order.”

The details of the plea bargain will be sealed until Rojas is sentenced on Jan. 16, Landreth said. The deal was agreed upon after it had been presented entirely in writing, he said.

Santos was last seen June 10 of last year before his body turned up in a mustard seed field nine days later. Ramos, 31, and Rojas, 25, later confessed and were both charged with murder – along with felony charges for a hate crime and stealing Santos’ car.

The hate crime charge was added because their suspected motive for killing Santos was their reaction to Santos’ lifestyle, which included soliciting sex from men.

Rojas and Ramos told investigators Santos approached them in the parking lot of a local supermarket, according to court documents. They told police they directed Santos to an isolated section of a mustard seed field where they beat, strangled and repeatedly stabbed Santos to death and left his body in the field, according to court documents.

They were later arrested in Stockton after a police officer spotted Rojas driving Santos’ missing red 2002 Kia Optima. After questioning, Rojas led police to Ramos.

Rojas’ original plea bargain agreement included a manslaughter charge and a special allegation of a hate crime. Under that agreement, Rojas’ maximum sentence would be 12 years in prison, Landreth has said

The original proposal had been on the table since early August. But prosecutors at the time had not informed the Santos family of the potential plea bargain, and District Attorney John Sarsfield put off making a decision until that could happen.

The family’s attorney, Phillips Sweet, had said the family continually tried to keep in touch with the district attorney’s office but hadn’t received complete information about the plea bargain.

Sweet declined comment regarding the agreement Friday because he hadn’t been informed about the deal from Sarsfield yet, he said.

Landreth said if Rojas is called as a witness during the trial he could testify against Ramos, but he doesn’t know if he’ll be called or not.

Sarsfield said Ramos is expected to go to trial Jan. 5. If Ramos is convicted he could face life behind bars.

Erin Musgrave covers public safety for the Free Lance. Reach her at 637-5566, ext. 336 or [email protected]

Previous articleBells back on the historic El Camino Real
Next articleThomas Butterfield
A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here