[UPDATED WITH CHARGES] Esteban Navarrete, OC Homicide No. 4: Shot in Parking Lot Where Fight Erupted Over Whose Mexican State is Better

Courtesy of SAPD
Maria Rocha

UPDATE, FEB. 23, 2:06 P.M.: The Orange County district attorney's office (OCDA) today announced charges against the third defendant in the senseless slaying of Esteban Navarrete.

Maria Isabel Rocha's 17-year-old brother, who is also a suspect, is also identified by the OCDA, which will try Ricardo Guerra Rocha as an adult for murder. Santa Ana police had previously withheld naming Ricardo Rocha because he is a juvenile.

The Rocha siblings could get 50 years to life in state prison if convicted of the charges against them. They are being held in lieu of $1 million bail each and were to be arraigned today in Santa Ana.

Prosecutors are seeking life in prison without the possibility of parole for Navarette's shooter, Ivan Sanchez, who is being held without bail.
His arraignment is scheduled for March 2 in the Central Jail in Santa Ana.

According to the OCDA statement on today's arraignment hearing (which you can read in full below), Maria Rocha drove a car and waited for her brother and Sanchez as they confronted Navarette in the parking lot of Mariscos La
Ola restaurant in Santa Ana on Feb. 13. The defendants and others who had been at the restaurant had been in a verbal argument that escalated into a fistfight with another group of diners over whose state in Mexico is better. Navarette and his party of diners were not involved in the altercation.

When Navarette got out of his car to explain that to the two males, Sanchez is alleged to have shot him once in the head. Sanchez and Ricardo Rocha then got into the car, with Maria Rocha behind the wheel, and were whisked away.

According to the OCDA, Sanchez and Ricardo Rocha are members of a Santa Ana gang.

February 23, 2011


SANTA ANA – A third defendant was charged today for the unprovoked
shooting-murder of an innocent man outside of a restaurant in Santa
Ana. Maria Isabel Rocha, 28, Santa Ana, is charged with one
felony count of murder with sentencing enhancements for the vicarious
discharge of a firearm causing death by a gang member and criminal
street gang activity. If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 50
years to life in state prison.

Maria Rocha's brother Ricardo Guerra Rocha, 17, Santa Ana, was charged
Feb. 22, 2011, as an adult. He is charged  with the same
counts as Maria Rocha with an additional felony count of street
terrorism. He faces a maximum sentence of 50 years to life in state
prison if convicted.

Maria and Ricardo Rocha are both being held on $1 million bail and are
expected to be arraigned today, Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011, in Department
CJ-1, Central Jail, Santa Ana. The time is to be determined.

Ivan Sanchez, 21, Santa Ana, was charged Feb. 22, 2011,
with one felony count each of special circumstances murder and street
terrorism with sentencing enhancements for the personal discharge of a
firearm causing death, murder committed for a criminal street gang
purpose, and criminal street gang activity. If convicted, he faces a
minimum sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of
parole. The defendant is being held without bail and is scheduled for
arraignment March 2, 2011, at 10:00 a.m. in Department CJ-1, Central

On the night of Feb. 13, 2011, Sanchez, Rocha, and Rocha, are accused of
getting into an argument with an unknown group of people at Mariscos La
Ola restaurant in Santa Ana over which state in Mexico was better. The
three defendants are accused of leaving the restaurant, driving to get a
firearm, and returning to the parking lot several minutes later.

When the defendants arrived back at the restaurant, 35-year-old Esteban
Navarrete was leaving the restaurant and getting into his car with his
wife and friend. He did not know the defendants. Maria Rocha is accused
of being the driver and waiting in the car for her co-defendants.
Sanchez and Ricardo Rocha are both accused of being documented criminal
street gang members. The male defendants are accused of getting out of
the car and approaching the victims' vehicle. Navarrete, who is not
associated with any criminal street gang, got out of his vehicle to
explain that he and his passengers were not involved in the earlier

Sanchez is accused of then murdering Navarrete by shooting him one time
in the head. The defendant is accused of firing several shots, but the
other victims were not hit. Sanchez and Ricardo Rocha are accused of
getting back into the vehicle and Maria Rocha is accused of driving the
defendants away from the scene.

The Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD) investigated this case. On Feb.
17, 2011, Sanchez was arrested after SAPD performed a traffic stop of a
vehicle driven by 20-year-old
Manuel Toscano. Toscano is accused of
attempting to drive Sanchez to Mexico to avoid prosecution. Toscano has
been charged with one felony count of accessory after
the fact and faces a maximum sentence of three years in state prison if
convicted. Maria and Ricardo Rocha turned themselves in to SAPD on Feb.
18, 2011.

Senior Deputy District Attorney
Mark Geller of the Gang Unit is prosecuting this case.

UPDATE, FEB. 19, 3:32 P.M.: Two more people have turned themselves in to Santa Ana Police and have been arrested and jailed for the senseless slaying of Esteban Navarrete.

Maria Rocha, 28, of Santa Ana, and a male suspect who was not identified because he is a minor gave themselves up Friday afternoon. Like 21-year-ols Santa Anan Ivan Sanchez, who police identified as the alleged shooter, Rocha and the teen face one murder count and two attempted murder counts.

A fourth man man remains at large.

Courtesy of SAPD
Ivan Sanchez

UPDATE, FEB. 18, 11:08 A.M.: Surveillance video from Mariscos La
Ola restaurant that the Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD) made public
Wednesday morning led to Thursday evening's arrest of a suspect in the
murder of  35-year-old Esteban Navarrete.

An anonymous tip from
someone who recognized Ivan Sanchez in the video led to the
surveillance, arrest and booking of the 21-year-old Santa Ana resident
on one murder count and three attempted murder counts.

He was
allegedly in the process of fleeing to Mexico, where he has never been,
when police took him down on the southbound 5 freeway in Tustin.

The Orange County Register broke the news this morning. According to reporter Denisse Salazar's piece:

  • Sanchez was identified as the shooter of Navarrete.
  • After getting the tip their murder suspect was headed to Mexico, where his father was from, detectives used a helicopter, surveillance teams and other resources
    to keep an eye on Sanchez.
  • His father and two other people were taking Sanchez to Mexico when their vehicle was pulled over on the 5 at Red Hill Avenue.
  • The father and two others were questioned by police and released, although the Orange County District Attorney's Office may still file charges against them.
  • Sanchez was booked after detectives questioned him.

The late Esteban Navarrete, who worked at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange for 15 years, has been described as a hard-working family man.

POST, FEB. 17, 1:54 P.M.:
The innocent diner shot by men arguing with
others in a Santa Ana restaurant over which state in Mexico is better
was declared brain dead Tuesday night and, with family surrounding him,
was pulled off life support.

What had been an attempted murder
investigation is now a murder probe, and police stepped up the hunt to
find 35-year-old Esteban Navarrete's killers by releasing Sunday night's
surveillance video from Mariscos La Ola, 1741 E. McFadden Ave.

It was there around 10 p.m. when two groups began arguing over whose Mexican state is better. The flap spilled
into the parking lot while Navarrete, his wife and a friend continued dining inside the restaurant. They never got involved in the fracas.

The fight ended and the groups outside seemed to be breaking up and leaving the area. Navarrete then told his party it would be a good idea to leave the restaurant themselves in case the rowdies returned.

Some did return to the Mariscos La Ola parking lot in a dark, possibly gray, SUV. At that point Navarrete, whose wife and friend were still inside the establishment, got into his car.

For reasons unknown, two of the men who'd been fighting with the others walked over to Navarrete. Someone whipped out a gun, several shots were fired and Navarrete was
struck in the head.

He'd been on life support since Sunday night. His shooters remain at large.

Through Santa Ana Police, the Orange County Register posted the surveillance video:

In the video, Navarrete can be seen glancing back
at the rowdies but not getting involved in their spat. Also shown are three men and
one woman, all of whom homicide investigators would like to question.

They are described as being in their early 20s. One man was wearing a
dark-colored hoodie, a second man was wearing a blue baseball cap, and a third was in a white T-shirt. The woman wore dark

Navarrete's killers ran back to the same the SUV, which quickly whisked them away.

Anyone with information about the shooters is asked to call homicide detectives at 714.245.8390.

See our previous post: “Near-Fatal Shooting After Argument Over Which State in Mexico is Best Begs the Question: Which IS Best?

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