Yacshicka Watts was found deceased on October 20, 2007, when she was 25-years-old in the parking lot of a commercial complex located at the 2300 block of West Second Street, in Santa Ana, according to the Orange County Cold Case Homicide Task Force.
Santa Ana Police detectives determined that she had been strangled and initial forensic testing located DNA evidence that identified 39-year-old Jose Esteban Zuniga as a possible suspect in the incident.
The case however grew cold as primary leads in the case failed to gain enough corroborating evidence to charge Zuniga with a crime.
The case was assigned to the Orange County Homicide Task Force (OCHTF) in 2014. Over the course of the current investigation, Task Force members conducted additional interviews and the Orange County Crime Lab investigators used additional forensic testing and DNA evidence to further connect Zuniga to the crime.
The case was then submitted to the Orange County District Attorney’s office for review. On Thursday, December 10, 2015, investigators traveled to Mammoth Lakes, where the suspect was currently living and arrested him. He was charged with one felony count of murder, and his bail was set at one million dollars.
Zuniga is being held at the Orange County jail and he is scheduled for arraignment on Monday, December 14. 2015. He faces a potential maximum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison.
The DNA was matched to Zuniga after an unrelated arrest in Northern California, according to the O.C. Register.
If convicted, he faces a He is being held on $1 million bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 14.
About the Orange County Cold Case Homicide Task Force
Orange County police agencies and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) have aggressively and cooperatively pursued the investigation of unsolved homicides for many years. While many cold cases have been solved, over 1000 unsolved cases remain open. Due to budgets, caseloads and other factors these cases have competed for time, resources and enforcement efforts by their respective agencies. With this voluminous amount of unsolved cases it was necessary to approach this problem with a collaborative effort from the OCDA’s Office and various law enforcement agencies throughout Orange County. The Orange County Cold Case Homicide Task Force (OCHTF) was formed with the Santa Ana Police Department selected as the host and supervising agency. The mission of the task force established by the OCHTF policy committee is to reduce the number of unsolved homicides in Orange County. The OCHTF was implemented on July 1, 2014.