Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
Susan Kang Schroeder
SON SENTENCED TO LIFE IN PRISON WITHOUT PAROLE FOR 1999 Y2K PLOT TO HAVE PARENTS MURDERED TO STEAL THEIR LIFE SAVINGS
SANTA ANA – A son was sentenced today to life in state prison without the possibility of parole for plotting the stabbing-murder of his parents in 1999 in order to steal their savings, which had been placed in a safety deposit box in anticipation of the Y2K “millennium bug” problem. Jose Alonso Najera Jr., 29, Garden Grove, was found guilty by a jury June 1, 2010, of one felony count of first degree murder for Jose Najera Sr. and one felony count of second degree murder for Elena Najera. The special circumstances for murder for financial gain and multiple murders were found true.
Co-defendant Gerald Thomas Johnson, 29, Villa Park, (Case #00WF0080) was convicted by a jury March 15, 2002, of two felony counts of special circumstances murder with a sentencing enhancement for multiple murders. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on May 22, 2002.
In 1999, Najera’s parents, 42-year-old Jose Najera Sr. and 46-year-old Elena Najera, withdrew their savings from their bank accounts in anticipation of the Y2K bug and put their money in a safety deposit box. Najera, then 19 years old, lived with his parents in Garden Grove and had access to the family’s safety deposit box.
Najera plotted with Johnson, a friend from high school, to murder Najera’s parents. Najera arranged the murder in order to steal his parents’ savings. On Dec. 27, 1999, Najera left a window open to his home so that Johnson could enter the house that night. Najera then went to Johnson’s house. Johnson invited several additional friends to his house that night to give the two defendants an alibi for the time of the murder.
While his friends were still having a party at his house, Johnson drove to Najera’s house in the early morning of Dec. 28, 1999. Najera stayed behind in an effort to avoid being suspected of the murders. Johnson entered the victims’ house through the open window wearing a ski mask to disguise his identity and stabbed Jose Najera Sr. and Elena Najera more than 20 times each.
As the victims struggled for their lives, Johnson’s ski mask was pulled off and left in the house. The defendant murdered the victims and fled the scene. At approximately 4:30 a.m., Najera called 911 to report that he had come home to find his parents dead on the floor, pretending to have no knowledge of the murders.
The Garden Grove Police Department investigated the case and Johnson was charged in 2000 after being linked to the crime through hair and saliva DNA found on the ski mask, which was recovered from the crime scene. Najera was charged in 2008 as a result of additional investigation and a re-review of the case.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Mike Murray of the Homicide Unit prosecuted this case.