Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
March 4, 2009
Susan Kang Schroeder
TWO PRISON INMATES CHARGED WITH 1994 COLD CASE SHOOTING-MURDER OF SANTA ANA WOMAN WHEN THEY WERE 15 YEARS OLD
SANTA ANA – Two current prison inmates linked through ballistics using newly available advanced technology have been charged in a cold case for shooting and murdering a woman in 1994 outside of her Santa Ana apartment. Manuel Rojas, 29, and John Raymond Breceda, 29, are charged with one felony count of murder with a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a firearm. If convicted in this case, both defendants face a maximum sentence of 30 years to life in prison to be served in addition to prison sentences they are 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 is serving a prison sentence in Arizona for a 2004 conviction for carjacking, the sale of methamphetamine, and gang activity. Rojas and Breceda will both be transported to Orange County for arraignment on the murder charge. The date is to be determined.
On March 13, 1994, Breceda, Rojas, and an uncharged third male are accused of 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 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 technology not available in 1994, 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.