Man sentenced to life for parents' murders

SANTA ANA, Calif. Jose Alonso Najera Jr., 29, was found guilty on June 1 of one felony count of first-degree murder for Jose Najera Sr. and one felony count of second-degree murder for Elena Najera. The special circumstances for /*murder*/ for financial gain and multiple murders were found true.

Several of Najera's family members attended the sentencing. According to Najera's attorney, the family believes he is innocent.

Co-defendant Gerald Thomas Johnson, 29, of Villa Park, was convicted on Mar. 15, 2002 of two felony counts of special circumstances murder with a sentencing enhancement for multiple murders. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on May 22, 2002.

It all began in 1999 when Najera's parents withdrew their savings from their bank accounts in anticipation of the Y2K bug and put their money in a safety deposit box. Najera, then 19 years old, lived with his parents in /*Garden Grove*/ and had access to the family's safety deposit box.

Prosecutors said Najera plotted with Johnson, a friend from high school, to murder his parents.

On Dec. 27, 1999, Najera left a window open to his home so that Johnson could enter the house that night. Najera then went to Johnson's house. Johnson held a party at his home the night of the murder to create an alibi. While his friends were still at the party, Johnson drove to Najera's house in the early morning of Dec. 28, 1999, entered the victims' house through the open window wearing a ski mask and stabbed Jose Najera Sr. and Elena Najera more than 20 times each.

As the victims struggled for their lives, Johnson's ski mask was pulled off and left in the house. Johnson fled the scene. At approximately 4:30 a.m., Najera called 911 to report that he had come home to find his parents dead on the floor.

The /*Garden Grove Police Department*/ investigated the case and Johnson was charged in 2000 after being linked to the crime through hair and saliva DNA found on the ski mask. Johnson killed himself in prison in 2008, the same year Najera was charged as a result of additional investigation.

Prosecutors said before the murders, Najera dipped into his parents' savings to pay for strippers and even bought Christmas presents for himself and gave them to his cousins so they could give them back to him to ensure he'd get what he wanted for the holiday.

The prosecutor told jurors that the defendant was angry that he got caught by his parents blowing $18,000 in a failed drug deal and then having to pay it back by working for his father for free.

Jose Najera Sr., who was 42 when he died, and his 46-year-old wife were described as strict parents who worked hard to send their only son to a private Roman Catholic school.

Najera spent all of his parents' savings by September 2000 and the Garden Grove home went into foreclosure because he could not afford to pay the mortgage. He continued to live in /*Orange County*/ in an apartment.

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