Trial for co-defendant in baseball bat murder underway
Testimony got underway on Wednesday in the trial of Jonathan Ochoa, a co-defendant implicated in the April 18, 2012, murder of 33-year-old Kendal Smith, who was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat in what turned out to be a case of mistaken identity.
Ochoa, who also goes by the street name of "Popeye" or "Jimmy," has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder, one count each of conspiracy to commit possession of narcotic drugs for sale, conspiracy to commit armed robbery and resisting arrest.
The trial is scheduled to last until Sept. 20, and is being prosecuted by attorneys William Katz and John Tate, of the Yuma County Attorney's Office. A Superior Court judge from Maricopa County is presiding over the trial due to a conflict of interest. One of the murdered man's relatives was an employee of the Yuma Justice Center, the building where the courtrooms are located.
A Yuma County jury in June found co-defendant Manuel Bustamante Jr., guilty of two counts of first-degree murder in June. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison last month.
On the night of the murder, Bustamante and several members of his crew, one of whom was allegedly Ochoa, went to an apartment in the 2500 block of 15th Place, armed with baseball bats, because that is where he thought the heroin from his girlfriend was being kept. Once there, they were confronted by Smith.
Yuma County Sheriff's Office were dispatched to the scene, in reference to a disturbance involving six subjects armed with baseball bats.
Upon arrival, deputies found Smith with blunt force trauma to the head. He was taken unconscious to Yuma Regional Medical Center and later transferred to St. Joseph's Medical Center in Phoenix, where he died. All of the suspects had fled the scene before deputies arrived.
James Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.