General Crime

* Juan Jose Hernandez Mendoza was sentenced to 25 years to life for first degree murder of Manuel Reyes

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 A former Napa County man was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday  for fatally stabbing a veterans’ hospital security guard seven years ago. Juan Jose Hernandez Mendoza, 31, was sentenced to 25 years to life for the first-degree murder of Manuel Reyes, Napa County Deputy District Attorney Allison Haley said. Napa County Superior Court Judge Rodney Stone also sentenced to him one additional year for use of a knife, Haley said. Reyes, 58, was on duty as a security guard at the Veterans Home of California, Yountville on Aug. 3, 2003, when he was killed.  Hernandez Mendoza had taken a cab from Napa to a labor camp north of Yountville. The cab driver was unsure how to get there and had stopped at the Veterans Home of California guard station.
    Reyes offered to drive Hernandez Mendoza in his security car, but the car was found crashed into a tree on Dry Creek Road near Mount Veeder Road later that morning. Reyes had been stabbed several times, and his body was found near the security car.
    Detectives found a baseball cap containing Hernandez Mendoza’s DNA at the remote area. Hernandez Mendoza fled to Mexico, but authorities received a tip in March 2008 he was in jail under an assumed name in the Portland, Ore., area awaiting prosecution for a sexual assault case.     He pleaded no contest to two counts of sexual abuse of an 8-year-old girl and attempted sodomy, Haley said. He was sentenced to 14 years and 11 months in prison before he was returned to Napa County to face the murder charge.     Hernandez Mendoza will now be returned to Oregon to serve that term before coming back to California to serve his 26-years-to-life sentence, Haley said. She said the terms will run consecutively, and Hernandez Mendoza will not be eligible for parole in California for 40 years and 11 months.  Haley objected when Deputy Public Defender Elia Ortiz asked the judge to allow Hernandez Mendoza to serve both sentences at the same time.  “Are we really going to tell that girl it didn’t matter and have the two sentences collapse into one?” she said. Napa County District Attorney Gary Lieberstein said justice has been “a long time coming for the Reyes family.”
    “We hope they can find some peace and solace knowing he is looking  at spending the rest of his life in prison and can never harm anyone again,” Lieberstein said.     
    
   
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