Hollister police are continuing to investigate a second person in connection with the 2014 murder of Ariana Zendejas after the arrest Thursday of prime suspect Jose Barajas.
Hollister police booked Barajas, 24, into the San Benito County Jail on Friday after Barajas was transported from Guadalajara, Mexico, said Hollister police Sgt. Don Pershall.
Pershall confirmed that the second person, a woman who was age 20 at the time of the Zendejas killing, is part of the “ongoing investigation.” The second person returned from Mexico in 2015.
“Regarding any charges on her, that is part of the ongoing investigation,” Pershall said.
Asked to elaborate on what the investigation entails, and Pershall responded: “It is putting all the pieces together basically and figuring out, working with the DA’s office to figure out what charges are ultimately appropriate for him.”
Pershall said the HPD found out Thursday and met Mexican officials at the San Jose Airport. Barajas was booked at about 12:30 p.m., he said.
The HPD in its statement on the arrest noted how its investigators worked with Mexican authorities and the FBI on the matter. Pershall said in 2017, the HPD received some “actionable” tips about his whereabouts in Mexico, and that there were a “few close misses” capturing him.
In January 2018, HPD detectives and FBI agents confirmed information that led the FBI and Mexican law enforcement to a specific house in Guadalajara. Several surveillance operations were initiated to confirm Barajas was there before a morning raid July 12 by Mexican law enforcement and immigration authorities that led to his capture.
“We’ve been working on it since it occurred basically from 2014 until now,” Pershall said.
Perhall said it was important to get a big step toward closure for the Zendejas family, members of which were at the press conference Friday.
“It was important for us having the family have some closure in this case,” he said.
Barajas had been implicated in the shooting death of the 18 year-old Hollister teen on Aug. 1, 2014. Barajas fled Hollister that night and remained a fugitive until Thursday. A warrant for murder and kidnapping had been in the law enforcement database since 2014, according to police.
According to the HPD statement released Friday:
On the morning of July 12, 2108, Hollister Police detectives were notified by agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation that Jose Barajas had been located and arrested in Guadalajara, Mexico. Barajas was detained by Mexican law enforcement and was being flown to the United States.
In the time since the 2014 murder of Ariana Zendejas, Hollister Police detectives have been working tirelessly with the FBI to locate Barajas. Barajas had been implicated in the shooting death of the 18 year-old Hollister teen on August 1st, 2014. Barajas fled Hollister that night and remained a fugitive until yesterday. A warrant for murder and kidnapping had been in the law enforcement database since 2014.
In 2017, Hollister Police detectives learned specific and actionable information regarding the whereabouts of Barajas in Mexico, which they passed to the FBI. In January of 2018, HPD detectives and FBI agents confirmed that information through multiple local sources and sources abroad. That information led the FBI and Mexican law enforcement to a specific house in Guadalajara, Mexico. Several surveillance operations were initiated to confirm Barajas was at that location. A morning raid on July 12th by Mexican law enforcement and immigration authorities was organized and ultimately led to Barajas’ capture.
Because Barajas is a United States citizen, he was deported from Mexico immediately. He was flown by commercial airline to California under the guard of Mexican and American federal agents. Barajas was turned over to Hollister Police detectives this moring at the San Jose International Airport. He was transported and booked on charges related to the murder of Ariana Zendejas at the San Benito County Jail.
“4 years ago the life of an innocent victim was lost. We did not forget her,” said FBI Special Agent In Charge John F. Bennett “Today’s announcement is the result of tenacious and collaborative work of the FBI and our partners at the Hollister police department. This case demonstrates that no matter how long it takes, we will find criminals-wherever they may hide- and bring them to justice.”
The Hollister Police Department would like to extend it’s heartfelt thanks to the FBI, U.S. Imigrations and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Marshalls, Mexican Federal officials, the Mexican Federal Police, and the Jalisco State Police for helping bring Barajas to justice. We would also like to thank the San Jose Police Department Airport Division for facilitating the transfer of Barajas.
Anyone with information regarding these investigations are requested to contact The Hollister Police Department at 831-636-4330. Persons wishing to remain anonymous may call WeTip at (800) 78-CRIME. Information provided to WeTip may qualify for a reward.