Najera, Jr., the 29-year-old Garden Grove man convicted June 1 of murdering his parents in a plot to steal
money they pulled out of the bank before Y2K, was sentenced today to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
He thus becomes the second man sentenced to life for the stabbing murders of Elena and Jose Najera Sr. The son's best friend from Mater Dei High School, Gerald Thomas Johnson, was convicted of first- and second-degree murder in 2002. Authorities say he killed himself in prison in 2008–the same year Najera was arrested.
Why authorities reopened the case remains a mystery. Did Johnson say something behind bars that eventually reached the ears of prosecutors? Meanwhile, some–including readers of this blog–have speculated that Najera was singled out because of his race.
This we do know: then 19-year-old Najera called police around 4:30 a.m. on Dec. 28, 1999, to report he had come
home to find his parents dead on the floor of their Garden Grove home.
Police determined the couple was stabbed to death. A key piece of evidence was a ski cap their killer left behind, having it perhaps pulled off during the death struggle.
Garden Grove Police investigators eventually linked DNA from hair and saliva in a ski mask to Johnson.
The Orange County District Attorney's Office has previously stated that “a review
of the case and additional investigation” led to the charges the agency filed against Najera.
His parents had withdrawn their life savings from the bank in anticipation of a Y2K disaster
that never came and placed the funds in a safe deposit box Najera Jr. could access.
jury agreed that he plotted with Johnson to have his parents
snuffed out, leaving a window of his home open so his buddy could enter
the night of the killings.
The jury was told Najera went to Johnson's house
to wait out the dirty deed. They were told both surrounded themselves with friends at Johnson's house to establish alibis. They were told that, as the party raged on, Johnson slipped
out, drove over to the Najera home and stabbed the mother and father
more than 20 times each.