Hearing set in NAPA driver's murder
Another court date has been scheduled for a gang member accused of the 2009 murder of a NAPA Auto Parts delivery driver from San Diego who was making an early morning delivery in Somerton when he was beaten with a baseball bat and stabbed to death.
Superior Court Judge John Nelson set April 16 at 8:30 a.m. for another status hearing for Israel Martinez Lopez, at which time a mitigation hearing could be scheduled or a time set for sentencing. Lopez has entered a plea agreement for first-degree murder and is going to be sentenced to statutory life in prison, meaning he has the possibility of being paroled after serving 25 years.
Also charged in the murder were Pedro Raya Jr., who was sentenced to seven years in prison last month, and Jose Gonzalez Nunez, who has also entered a plea to first-degree murder. Unlike with Lopez's plea agreement, the court has the discretion to sentence him to either statutory life or natural life in prison, meaning he is not eligible for parole.
According to Somerton police, Morteza Tajik was found dead in the 100 block of South Congress Avenue. A Somerton police officer on a routine patrol found the body at 2:47 a.m.
Court records indicate that Tajik had been stabbed multiple times by Lopez and that Nunez allegedly struck him on the head several times with a baseball bat.
Raya's role in the murder was to serve as a lookout and steal Tajik's wallet once he had become incapacitated. Tajik had been a deliveryman for San Diego's NAPA Auto Parts for 12 years and drove parts to Yuma County and the Imperial Valley.
James Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.