|For Immediate Release
April 6, 2009
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Public Affairs Counsel
GRAND JURY INDICTS TWO PRISON INMATES FOR 1994 COLD CASE MURDER OF WOMAN WHEN
THEY WERE 15 YEARS OLD
SANTA ANA – The Orange County Grand Jury unsealed an indictment today against two current prison inmates who were linked through newly acquired ballistics technology to a cold case shooting-murder of a woman in 1994 outside of her Santa Ana apartment. Criminal street gang members Manuel Rojas, 29, and John Raymond Breceda, 30, are both charged with one felony count of murder with a sentencing enhancement for criminal street gang activity. Rojas faces an additional sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a firearm. If convicted in this case, Rojas faces a maximum sentence of 35 years to life in prison, to be served in addition to the prison sentence he is already serving for unrelated crimes. Rojas is currently in California state prison serving a third-strike sentence of 25 years to life for robbery convictions in 1998 and 2004. Breceda faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison if convicted in this case. He is serving a prison sentence in Arizona for a 2004 conviction for carjacking, the sale of methamphetamine, and gang activity. Rojas and Breceda will be arraigned on April 9, 2009, at 8:30 a.m. in Department C-5, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
On March 13, 1994, Breceda, Rojas, and an uncharged third male are accused of being members of criminal street gangs and loitering in front of the Casa Serena Apartments at 330 W. Washington Avenue in Santa Ana. Breceda and Rojas were both 15 years old at the time. While the three males were outside of the complex, 55-year-old resident Valentina Giles Roque yelled from the balcony of her second story apartment for the defendants to go away and stop loitering near her home.
Breceda is accused of giving Rojas a .25 caliber semi-automatic firearm and instructing him to shoot Roque. When the victim came down from her apartment to the street level to confront the defendants, Rojas is accused of shooting her in the chest while standing five feet away, firing several more shots as he backed away, and fleeing the scene with Breceda. The victim was able to get back into her apartment, where she collapsed and died in front of her then-24-year-old son and 26-year-old daughter-in-law.
On March 14, 1994, a Santa Ana patrol officer noticed Rojas outside of a liquor store and stopped to conduct a routine field interview. Rojas is accused of pulling out the .25 caliber semi-automatic firearm used in the murder of Roque and pointing it at the officer. The officer was able to wrestle the gun from Rojas.
Rojas and Breceda were both identified as suspects in the murder of Roque in 1994, but ballistics testing of the firearm was inconclusive using the technology available at that time and a case was not filed against the defendants. In late 2008, the Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD) Cold Case Homicide Unit began reviewing and reinvestigating the case. In February 2009, SAPD conducted ballistics testing of the firearm from this case in a review of cold cases. Using newly developed technology, SAPD was able to link the .25 caliber semi-automatic firearm to the murder. The Orange County District Attorney’s Office filed charges against Rojas and Breceda.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Mike Murray of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.