By Elizabeth Roberts | The (Stockton) Record
A longtime fugitive accused in the 1979 slaying of an Escalon bar owner will stand trial for murder, the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office said Friday.
Jesus Emilio Baraza Valdez, 75, was arraigned Friday in San Joaquin Superior Court in connection with the June 27, 1979, murder of Joseph Rocha, owner of the Rocha’s 120 Club in Escalon.
“Through the tenacity of the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Cold Case Unit detectives and the skill of former investigators, an arrest and prosecution in this case was possible,” District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar said in a statement Friday. “We are especially thankful that Mr. Rocha’s 91-year-old widow, Helen, was not only able to live to see this day, but was able to participate and provide her valuable testimony.”
More: Second suspect in 1979 San Joaquin County homicide arrested
On June 27, 1979, Baraza Valdez and an accomplice were at the Highway 120 bar when they were asked to leave because of bad behavior, the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office reported in January. They returned to the bar and tried to purchase beer but were denied; that’s when Baraza Valdez allegedly shot Rocha, who died.
Baraza Valdez reportedly fled the country and changed his name after the slaying. Authorities arrested him Dec. 8 at his home in Southern California.
His accomplice was arrested, charged and convicted for his participation in 1979.
A preliminary hearing Feb. 4 determined there was enough evidence for Baraza Valdez to stand trial in the killing.
Over the course of two days, the Judge Linda Lofthus heard testimony regarding the 41-year-old slaying, the DA’s Office said. According to records, Capt. Brian Barnes, who was in charge of the Sheriff’s Office’s Cold Case Unit in 2016, identified Baraza Valdez as a person of interest in the homicide. Detectives Chris Matsuoka and Irene Shelvay located him in Pomona in 2020, and he was arrested in December.
More: ‘Pitbulls going after bad guys’ staff new sheriff’s Cold Case Unit
Both Elbert Holman and Jerome Salmeron, two of the original deputies involved in the investigation in 1979, testified at the preliminary hearing earlier this month, the DA’s Office said.
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His attorney expressed doubts that his Baraza Valdez is competent to stand trial and he will be medically evaluated before returning to court March 18. He remains in custody in …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment