Zendejas murder case delayed as judge recuses himself

San Benito County Superior Court Judge Patrick Palacios was the deputy district attorney on another felony case involving the same defendant.
Because Judge Patrick Palacios was Deputy District Attorney on another case involving Zendejas he recused himself from the current murder case. Photo by John Chadwell.

The state’s felony murder case against Alfredo Cortez Zendejas, 28, was delayed for the third time March 16 when he appeared in San Benito County Superior Court before Judge Patrick Palacios for a preliminary hearing. The hearing has been rescheduled for March 30 because of a possible conflict of interest on the judge’s part.

Through his sister, Laura Zendejas, Alfredo Zendejas told BenitoLink he did not commit the murders and that he intends to fire his court-appointed attorney Rohn Barrow at the next court hearing. 

Palacios said Zendejas had “raised an issue with respect to a conflict” and added that he looked at another case involving a 2018 car burglary, which District Attorney Joel Buckingham told BenitoLink also involved Zendejas. 

Palacios looked at the case to see if he was involved and said there wasn’t a lot of information but said that since he was the attorney “for the plea and at sentencing,” he decided to recuse himself.

“The judge recused himself because when he reviewed a case in the past that is relevant in the current case, he saw that he had appeared as a deputy district attorney in that prior case,” Buckingham said. “As a result, I believe, he decided to remove himself from the case as judge and send the case over to Judge [Omar] Rodriguez.”

Buckingham said the case the judge was referring to is included in the current felony complaint filed at the court. He was charged on April 4, 2022, with nine felonies and 17 enhancements related to the March 26 drive-by shooting in Hollister that resulted in the deaths of Daniel Eli Gonzalez, 21, and Jaime Jesus Gomez, 23, and injured three others.

Zendejas was charged with two counts of premeditated murder, as well as three counts of attempted murder of Moises Vaca, Henry Alexander Escaname and Ray Gomez, 23. Other felony counts included a convicted violent felon in possession of body armor, possession of a firearm (rifle), and possession of ammunition and reloaded ammunition. He was also charged with a misdemeanor of possession of a high-capacity magazine.

Buckingham told BenitoLink earlier that Zendejas faces 100 years to life in prison if he is convicted.


Related BenitoLink stories:

Suspected drive-by-shooter facing murder, attempted murder charges | BenitoLink

San Jose man arrested in March 26 Hollister murders | BenitoLink

200 honor two young men killed March 26 | BenitoLink

San Jose man arrested in March 26 Hollister murders | BenitoLink

Two dead, three critically injured in Hollister drive-by shooting | BenitoLink


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John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a freelance photojournalist with additional experience as a copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter, and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer, having worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John worked as a scriptwriting consultant, and his own script, "God's Club," was produced and released in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime, which are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: [email protected]