Suspect held in security guard's murder

May 29, 2009 1:11:07 PM PDT
A former Napa County man has been held to answer in the stabbing death of a Yountville Veterans Home security guard nearly six years ago.

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Juan Jose Hernandez Mendoza, 30, will re-enter pleas to murder and personal use of a knife July 8, Assistant District Attorney Lee Philipson said. His three-day preliminary hearing in Napa County Superior Court ended Thursday.

Manny Reyes was on duty and working overtime at the Veterans Home of California in Yountville on the night of Aug. 3, 2003, when he was asked to act as a translator between Mendoza and a cab driver. The cab driver had picked up Mendoza in Napa around 11:30 p.m. that night, according to the Napa County Sheriff's Department.

Reyes instead offered to drive Mendoza to his destination, a labor camp north of Yountville. His security car was found crashed into a tree on Dry Creek Road near Mount Veeder Road early the next morning. Reyes had been stabbed multiple times and was found near his vehicle, the sheriff's department said.

Mendoza fled Napa County at the time of the murder, authorities said. They received a tip that Mendoza was in jail under an assumed name in the Portland area on a pending sexual assault case, sheriff's Capt. John Robertson said.

The murder investigation lead to several counties in Oregon and California, including Sonoma and San Joaquin counties, Robertson said. Napa County detectives positively identified Mendoza in Oregon as the murder suspect, Robertson said. He was transferred to Napa County this year.

During the hearing the prosecution introduced DNA evidence linking Mendoza to the crime scene, Philipson said.

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