UPDATE, JULY 9, 10:08 A.M.: A veteran Orange County homicide prosecutor wants to apply a special-circumstance allegation against accused double-murderer John Ramon Breceda that could conceivably set the 36-year-old Santa Ana resident up for a death penalty trial. The thing is, Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy is unsure whether he will be able to legally. That's because Breceda, who is accused of slitting the throat of 44-year-old Floriberto Villasenor Cortes on May 30, committed the previous murder in 1994, when he was two weeks away from his 15th birthday. Since Breceda did not plead guilty to the first slaying until November 2011–in juvenile court when he was in his 30s–he could not get prison time because by law such defendants must be 25 or under at the time of sentencing. Murphy says this is the first time he has faced such a dilemma with a homicide defendant.
“It's very unusual because you don't have too many paroled murderers running around,” he told City News Service.
Murphy also said investigators are unsure what triggered the killing of Cortes.
ORIGINAL POST, JULY 3, 6:33 A.M.: A man who literally got away with murder as a teen and who was on parole for a string of later crimes will likely be charged today for allegedly committing a whole new murder.
John Raymond Breceda, 36, of Santa Ana, is currently in Orange County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail for a parole violation, according to veteran homicide prosecutor Matt Murphy of the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA).
Breceda is a drug user accused of slashing the throat of drug dealer Floriberto Villasenor Cortes on May 30 in Costa Mesa. The 44-year-old, also of Santa Ana, had his throat slit in his car before he was found bleeding on a residential lawn in the 2900 block of Peppertree Lane. Police believe it was a drug deal gone bad. Cortes' vehicle was found the next day, burning in a field near the 5 freeway and Junipero Serra Road, according to Costa Mesa Police Lt. Greg Scott.
Investigators have video footage of Breceda and Cortes together just before the killing, and recovered a discarded sun visor from the Cortes' car that has a bloody fingerprint allegedly left behind by Breceda, Murphy told City News Service.
Marcela Raye Gomez-Lee, 50, of Santa Ana, is charged with being an accessory after the fact and arson of property. She is scheduled to be arraigned July 17. Gomez-Lee was arrested June 25 and Breceda was arrested Tuesday, Scott said.
Breceda was 14 and Manuel Rojas was 15 when they murdered 55-year-old Valentina Giles Roque on March 13, 1994, for confronting drug dealers outside her Santa Ana apartment. They confessed that Breceda gave Rojas a .25-caliber handgun and instructed him to shoot Roque, who Rojas shot in the chest at close range and fired additional shots as he backed away before fleeing. But the teens were not charged due to inconclusive ballistics evidence.
Santa Ana Police took another crack at the case in 2008 and were able to link Rojas and Breceda to the shooting. But because of their ages at the time of the crime, they had to be prosecuted in juvenile court. Breceda pleaded guilty in November 2011, and Rojas was found guilty in a non-jury trial in November 2013. But neither could be punished because they were by then in their 30s, and judges can't sentence defendants older than 25 in juvenile court.
Rojas was already serving a three-strikes life prison term for robbery convictions. When Breceda was indicted for the Roque murder in 2009, he was serving a 12-year prison sentence in Arizona for carjacking, methamphetamine sales and gang activity. After he was paroled from that sentence, he picked up two new cases in Orange County on drug and theft charges. Prosecutors said in October 2013 Breceda was sentenced to prison for three years but obviously got out early.
OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.