Police / Fire

Judge sentences Barajas 47 years to life

Jose Antonio Barajas was convicted of murder, attempted murder, kidnapping and shooting at an inhabited vehicle.

Jose Antonio Barajas was sentenced on April 11 to 47 years to life in prison following his conviction on four counts—murder, attempted murder, kidnapping and shooting at an inhabited vehicle. During two trials, he was found guilty in the killing of Ariana Zendejas and the kidnapping of Denay Gutierrez during a car chase in Hollister in August 2014.

Here is a breakdown of Barajas’ sentencing.

  • Murder: 25 years to life and an additional 10 years for gun enhancement
  • Attempted murder: a life sentence requiring a 7-year minimum
  • Kidnapping: five years, consecutive to other convictions
  • Shooting at an inhabited vehicle: 5 consecutive years and an additional 25 years to life for gun enhancement, which is being stayed—meaning he was convicted of the charge but it is not part of his overall sentence. 

District Attorney Candice Hooper said the sentencing was difficult as laws for youth offenders, people 26 years of age and younger, keep changing, and because there were no precedents.

She added that according to current laws, Barajas, who was 20 at the time of the crime, would be eligible for parole after serving 25 years. He turns 28 on April 15. 

Barajas was found not guilty by the first jury on two counts of attempted murder.

Zendejas’ family declined to comment on the case. 

Hooper said that though she disagreed with the stay placed on the shooting at an inhabited vehicle and related gun enhancement charges, she was “not dissatisfied” with the sentencing. 

“It is a real tragic case. My heart goes out to the family of this matter and all the other homicides that have been occurring in our county,” she said. 

According to testimony from Hollister police at an April 2019 hearing, three witnesses claimed Barajas fired shots at a vehicle on Aug. 1, 2014, during a pursuit, hitting and killing Zendejas, who was riding in the back seat of the vehicle. She died while being flown from Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital to another hospital.

Authorities also said Barajas forced Gutierrez to drive him around looking for Gabriel Orozco, the driver of the other car.

Barajas fled the U.S. after the shooting. He was located in Mexico and extradited to California on July 12, 2018. He has been held without bail in the San Benito County Jail since his capture. He pleaded not guilty on July 16, 2018.


 We need your help. Support local, nonprofit news! BenitoLink is a nonprofit news website that reports on San Benito County. Our team is committed to this community and providing essential, accurate information to our fellow residents. It is expensive to produce local news and community support is what keeps the news flowing. Please consider supporting BenitoLink, San Benito County’s public service, nonprofit news.

Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is BenitoLink Co-Editor and Content Manager. He joined BenitoLink as reporter intern and was soon brought on staff as a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. He is a San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily. He is a USC Center for Health Journalism 2020 California Fellow.