The final defendant pleaded guilty Wednesday in the slaying of an innocent bystander who unfortunately became collateral damage in a restaurant fight that spilled into a street fight over which state in Mexico is the best. Maria Isabel Rocha, 30, of Santa Ana, was sentenced to 16 years in state prison after a murder count was dismissed and she pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and a gang sentencing enhancement.
Ivan Sanchez Faces 50 Years for Murder That Began With Fight Over Mexico's Best State
Ricardo Guerra Rocha Guilty of Murder in Shooting Over Best Mexican State
Esteban Navarrete, OC Homicide No. 4: Shot in Parking Lot Where Fight Erupted Over Whose Mexican State is Better
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Rocha's plea and reduced count spared her decades more in the joint. Her brother, 19-year-old gang member Ricardo Guerra Rocha, rolled the dice with an Orange County Superior Court jury, which in June found him guilty of the same charges originally facing his sister for the unprovoked shooting-murder of Esteban Navarrete outside of Mariscos La Ola restaurant in Santa Ana on Feb. 13, 2011. A judge last month sentenced that Rocha to 40 years to life in prison. A jury also convicted triggerman Ivan Sanchez, 23, of Santa Ana, last month for the Navarrete slaying. Sanchez faces a sentence of 50 years to life at a scheduled Dec. 7 hearing.
Navarette had been eating with others in the restaurant, where a verbal argument between diners at other tables over which Mexican state is best devolved into a physical melee that spilled out into the parking lot. As the combatants began breaking up and going their own ways, Navarrete informed his party it would be a good time to leave. He was shot to death when the Rochas and Sanchez, who had left briefly to get a weapon, returned. Sanchez shot Navarrete in the head as he was getting into his vehicle.
Described as a family man and hard worker at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange for 15 years, Navarette was declared brain dead days after the shooting before his family gathered around his hospital bed as he was taken off life support.