Wed. Jun 12th, 2024

Edgar Ortega Cervantes, a 52-year-old man, was sentenced to 16 years in prison on Thursday after he pleaded guilty halfway through his trial for fatally stabbing his roommate, Julio Franco, who was 24-years-old, in Santa Ana. Cervantes stabbed his Franco in order to steal from him before he took off to Mexico almost 27 years ago.

Cervantes accepted charges of voluntary manslaughter and a count of robbery and he was given credit for 1,046 days in custody, which is almost three years.

O.C. Deputy District Attorney Seton Hunt showed the jurors a series of crime scene photographs of the home Franco was killed at. The pictures depicted blood stains on the doors and walls as well as what appeared to be evidence of attempts to clean up the mess.

Hunt also told the jurors that Franco was “beat up, head down,” in the bath and that his pants were bloodstained, indicating that he may have bled while standing up at one point.

Franco lived in a converted garage on the property and Cervantes lived in a room in the home with his girlfriend at the time, Elvira Luzan.

Luzan returned to Mexico with her 3-month-old daughter a few days before Franco’s murder. Cervantes disappeared after the murder, leaving all of his belongings behind, according to Hunt.

On June 27, 1996, at 1:05 PM, SAPD officers responded to the 500 block of S. Spruce Street regarding a call of unknown trouble after a roommate found a resident deceased in the restroom, of apparent stab wounds.

Franco sustained a knife wound in the neck that severed his jugular vein, and a blow to the head as well as multiple knife wounds.

The SAPD police officers found a buck knife in the yard by a crawlspace entrance to the house and also recovered a blood-stained boot and light blue shirt.

Homicide detectives assumed the investigation, however, the case went cold, lacking witnesses. The Orange County Coroner’s Division conducted their investigation and identified the victim as Julio Franco of Santa Ana.

In 2009, Cold Case Homicide Detectives reviewed the case and identified potential items of forensic evidence. They submitted these items for analysis to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Crime Lab. A DNA profile was obtained and a suspect, Cervantes, was identified and ultimately located in Mexico. On October 26, 2020, Cervantes was arrested in Mexico.

On Thursday, July 15, 2021, in collaboration with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, Cervantes was extradited to California and was released to the custody of Santa Ana Police Homicide Detectives.

Homicide detectives interviewed Cervantes who made incriminating statements. With the concurrence from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, SAPD Homicide detectives booked Cervantes for CPC 187 (a) – Murder.

During the trail, Alisha Montoro of the Orange County Public Defender’s Office, Cervantes’ defense attorney, said that the law enforcement investigation was “sloppy.” She also noted that DNA was a central part of the evidence against former NFL running back O.J. Simpson in his double-murder trial in 1994 casting doubts on why the SAPD took so long to use the DNA evidence against Cervantes.

Montoro told the jurors that Cervantes moved from Mexico to California in 1995-96 and met Luzan, who had a daughter from another relationship and then conceived another child with Cervantes. The home they lived in had three bedrooms and had about 10 men and two women were living there.

Montoro complained that one of the men had been released from jail, but the SAPD never questioned him.

Montoro then tried to put the victim, Franco, in a bad light by saying that he was known as the “Junk Man” because he was known to collect items he would sell and he was considered “paranoid” by his neighbors.

Montoro also testified that some of the evidence from the crime scene has since been destroyed, including the original 911 call.

After Cervantes was arrested, he told the SAPD that he was defending himself when Franco was killed, according to Montoro. But she then claimed that Cervantes did not take anything belonging to Franco.

Montoro also claimed that Cervantes’ ex-wife, Luzan, has children in the United States and every time she crosses the border she keeps getting deported. Montoro then alleged that the SAPD paid her money and gave her a phone to entice her cooperation.

Luzan told the SAPD back in 2009 that she left Cervantes because he was abusive and that Cervantes was later arrested for murder and robberies in Mexico and was sentenced to 18 years behind bars there, according to Hunt.

In the end Montoro’s machinations were all for naught as Cervantes ended up accepting a plea agreement.

By Editor

The New Santa Ana blog has been covering news, events and politics in Santa Ana since 2009.

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