One of two defendants makes plea deal in 2010 murder case

rparsons@mercedsunstar.comOctober 18, 2013 

— One of two defendants charged in a 2010 Los Banos murder case cut a deal with prosecutors on Tuesday to avoid a potential life prison sentence.

Yadira Garcia Cervantes, 32, of Los Banos, pleaded no contest to a single felony count of robbery and is to be sentenced to 10 years in prison at a hearing Jan. 7. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss murder and carjacking charges against Cervantes in exchange for her plea, the Merced County District Attorney’s Office confirmed.

Cervantes and Carlos Anthony Gallegos were charged in connection with the 2010 shooting death of Jorge Luis Zamora in his apartment on I Street in Los Banos.

Judge Mark V. Bacciarini accepted Cervantes’ deal Tuesday morning in Merced County Superior Court. Cervantes must serve more than eight years of her sentence before becoming eligible for her first parole hearing, prosecutors said.

A Nov. 13 trial date was postponed after Cervantes changed her plea, her attorney Jeffrey Tenenbaum said.

Allen Turner, deputy district attorney, said prosecutors weighed the decision to plea bargain with Cervantes carefully.

“It was vetted and reviewed; it’s not something we ever do lightly,” Turner said.

Gallegos, 27, of Salinas, is the suspected gunman and faces a potential life prison sentence without parole if convicted on charges of murder and carjacking. He is scheduled for a trial-setting hearing on Dec. 19.

Authorities have not commented on a possible motive for the shooting.

Zamora, 54, was found dead June 29, 2010 with a gunshot wound to his chest. He had been dead for several days before neighbors called authorities to complain about a foul odor coming from Zamora’s apartment, police said at the time.

Investigators noted that some of Zamora’s property was missing from the home, including his wallet, keys and vehicle. Detectives said they tracked the missing vehicle to Gallegos’ home in Salinas where they also recovered some undisclosed property belonging to Zamora. Witnesses told police Gallegos and Cervantes had been seen driving Zamora’s vehicle in the days following the death.

Gallegos and Cervantes were charged in connection with the death in September that year, nearly three months after Zamora’s body was found.

Both defendants remain in custody without bail at the Merced County Jail.

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