Police / Fire

Second jury finds Barajas guilty of murder, kidnapping

Sentencing is scheduled for March 4.

On Jan. 14 a jury found Jose Antonio Barajas guilty of murder, attempted murder and kidnapping in the killing of 19-year-old Ariana Zendejas and kidnapping Denay Gutierrez during a car chase in August 2014. 

The sentencing was scheduled for March 4. District attorney Candice Hooper said she preferred to comment on the case after the sentencing. 

This was the second trial for Barajas. He was found not guilty of two counts of attempted murder and guilty of shooting at an inhabited vehicle on Nov. 10 by a different jury. That jury was hung on the remaining three counts. 

Hollister Police Department provided an update on social media shortly after the verdicts stating the officers’ work ultimately proved its case. 

“This case meant so much to so many of our staff and to this community as a whole,” the update said. In addition to thanking the district attorney, the FBI and the officers involved in the case, the department said the offenses “expose him to a sentence of life in prison.”

David Westrick, who was the chief of police when Barajas was arrested, said he thought the verdict will offer closure to the family. He also expressed appreciation for all the work past and present HPD staff put into the investigation. 

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, and was located and extradited from Mexico 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.


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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.