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San Benito
February 20, 2024

Preliminary exam put off in Barajas murder case

The crucial preliminary examination part of the court process was continued this week in the murder case against suspect Jose Barajas.

The scheduling of a preliminary hearing – called a preliminary setting – has been continued repeatedly in recent months. Attorneys in January had finally decided on Feb. 11 for the hearing, but it was scratched Feb. 6 at a pre-preliminary hearing.

Now, the involved parties will gather at a preliminary setting Feb. 13 in order to reschedule the preliminary examination.

Barajas’ attorney Greg LaForge previously told San Benito Live attorneys wanted to make sure they ensured witness availability for the preliminary hearing. At a preliminary hearing, a judge decides if there’s enough evidence for a jury trial.

The 24-year-old Barajas is the suspect in the 2014 murder of Hollister’s Ariana Zendejas, who was 18 at the time.

Barajas was detained this past summer by authorities in Mexico and has been charged by local prosecutors with murder, two counts of kidnapping, shooting at an inhabited dwelling, and three counts of assault with a firearm, according to court records. Barajas has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The San Benito County District Attorney’s Office filed the charges July 16 along with special allegations that could enhance any possible penalties.

If convicted of murder, Barajas could face up to life in prison. He has remained at the San Benito County Jail during the court proceedings.

Barajas fled Hollister that night and remained a fugitive until July 12 of this year. Hollister police booked him into the San Benito County Jail after Barajas was transported from Guadalajara, Mexico.

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, according to police.