Noe Magaña is a BenitoLink Intern Staff Reporter.
Hollister Police Chief David Westrick announced at a July 13 press conference that Jose Antonio Barajas was arrested in Mexico and extradited to the U.S. today. Barajas is a suspect in the August 1, 2014 murder of 18-year-old Ariana Zendejas.
Barajas was flown by commercial airline to California under the guard of Mexican and American federal agents and turned over to Hollister police at San Jose International Airport around 10:40 a.m. on July 13, Hollister Police Department Detective Bo Leland said.
Marisela Zendejas, Ariana’s mother, said she was not interested in what Barajas had to say regarding the case. She said she expects him to defend himself.
She said she had met Ariana’s friends, but never heard her daughter mention the suspect’s name or met or seen a picture of him until police named him as a suspect.
“Senti alegria, senti tristeza por que yo como mama me duele estar en este lugar pero yo también quería que se haga justicia (I felt happiness, felt sadness because, as a mother, it hurts being in this place, but I also wanted justice),” Marisela said when she was told Barajas had been captured.
In 2014, Barajas allegedly shot Ariana Zendejas near West Street and B Street in Hollister. She was taken to Hazel Hawkins Hospital in a private vehicle before being flown to a Bay Area trauma center, where she died as a result of her injuries.
Barajas fled Hollister on the night of the shooting and had remained a fugitive until yesterday, according to a police press release.
Camila Zendejas knew it was about her sister when police showed up at her house. She said it was something she had been waiting for, but didn’t expect it this soon because she knows cases can take longer.
“This is good, but it’s hard to get over the fact that this happened,” Camila said.
The 13-year-old said she remembers her sister as a beautiful girl with an amazing personality who was always supporting her family.
Jesus Ruiz said he was there to support his Aunt Marisela and cousin. He said it felt unreal when he heard the news.
“It was shocking,” Ruiz said. “I thought I was dreaming to be honest. It felt out of this world.”
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) detectives on the case received information two days ago about Barajas’ location. When the suspect’s identity was confirmed, he was contacted by Mexican law enforcement outside of a house in Guadalajara, Mexico. Mexican authorities took Barajas into custody without incident, detective Leland said.
Leland added that since Barajas is a U.S. citizen he was deported immediately without the need for complicated legal extradition.
Information in May 2017 pointed to Barajas being outside of the country and was sent to the FBI, the agency leading the case, Leland said.
At the Friday, July 13 press conference, Chief Westrick said the case will go to the district attorney’s office for charging.
Barajas is also a person of interest in the disappearance of Hollister resident Vanessa Flores, 20-years-old at the time of her disappearance, who was last seen with him on the day of the shooting four years ago.
It is unknown if Barajas was holding Flores against her will. Westrick said it is part of the investigation and did not elaborate on it.
Leland said he could not speak on the case, but Barajas was initially charged and signed off with kidnapping by the judge in the case.
Westrick said the kidnapping charge will be vetted out in the process of filing his charges.
Said FBI Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett: “Four years ago the life of an innocent victim was lost. We did not forget her. Today’s announcement is the result of tenacious and collaborative work of the FBI and our partners at the Hollister police department. This case demonstrates that no matter how long it takes, we will find criminals – wherever they may hide – and bring them to justice.”
Reporter John Chadwell contributed to this article.