SANTA CRUZ

Trial scheduled in fatal 2009 levee beating

A jury trial is slated to begin Sept. 23 for three men charged with fatally beating a homeless man nearly four years ago.

Jose Barajas, 44, was beaten and stabbed by a group of people on the Pajaro River levee in Watsonville on April 9, 2009. Seven people, ranging in age from 12-40, were charged.

Daniel Mendoza, 16, is being charged as an adult with murder and participation in a gang. Manuel Meza, 22, and Jose Carrillo Saucedo, 44, also face the same charges.

Attorneys met Monday with Judge Timothy Volkmann to set a trial date. Motions in the case will be heard April 23.

A fourth individual, who was 14 at the time of the beating, originally was charged as an adult but has now been transferred into the juvenile system.

Officials are seeking placement for him because he is severely developmentally disabled. He is not being named because juvenile records are considered confidential under state law.

FELTON

'Most Wanted' woman arrested Saturday

A 19-year-old woman sought on a number of charges was arrested Saturday in the area of Graham Hill Road and Roaring Camp Railroads.

Michaela Harwell of Felton appeared on the sheriff's "Most Wanted" list last week. Two felony warrants were issued for her arrest after she failed to appear in court, deputies said.


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Harwell faces charges for identity theft, forgery, possession of stolen property and possession of narcotics.

SANTA CRUZ

Three teens plead no contest in stabbing

Three teens charged in a March stabbing in Santa Cruz pleaded no contest to attempted murder Monday and will be sentenced March 28.

Julio Cesar Carrera, 16, whom prosecutor Charlie Baum alleged was the stabber, is expected to be sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Carrera also pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor for participation in a gang and admitted the special allegation that the stabbing was committed in furtherance of a gang.

Jorge Luis Cruz, 17, and Luis Garcia, 16, pleaded no contest to the same charges and are expected to get seven-year sentences.

Cruz was expected to plea sooner but the court date had to be postponed because he was attacked in Juvenile Hall and had to be hospitalized.

In March, eight teenagers were arrested in connection with attacking an 18-year-old Sacramento man as he was walking near the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk with his girlfriend. The victim told police the boys asked him about his gang affiliation before they chased him down and stabbed him four times.

Baum charged four of the teens as juveniles, including one teen suspected of attempting to destroy evidence afterward.

Another teen charged as an adult, 17-year-old Jorge Puga, pleaded no contest to felony attempted murder and misdemeanor gang participation on Dec. 31. He will be sentenced next month to five years in prison.

SANTA CRUZ

Police: Man drops pants on West Cliff Drive

A 24-year-old Santa Cruz man was arrested Sunday after police got a call complaining that a drunken man was being disruptive and challenging people to fight, police said.

Officers arrived at West Cliff Drive and Pelton Avenue near Lighthouse Field about 1:45 p.m. and found that Dimitri Z. Storm had encountered an opponent who took him up on his challenge to fight, Sgt. Dave Perry said. When the man didn't back down, Storm dropped his pants, exposing himself, and then inserted a finger in his own rectum, he said.

Police also found him with a small pair of brass knuckles and arrested him on suspicion of indecent exposure, with a prior offense, as well as being drunk in public, fighting and possessing brass knuckles.

CAPITOLA

CHP: SUV overturns; driver was using cell

An sport utility vehicle that overturned on Highway 1 on Sunday was caused by the driver becoming distracted by her cellphone and making an unsafe turning movement, the California Highway Patrol said.

A 1-year-old baby in the vehicle escaped injury in the 3:40 p.m. crash near Park Avenue, and the 29-year-old woman driving the SUV suffered minor injuries, officer Sarah Jackson said. Emergency dispatchers reported that the SUV landed on its roof.

SANTA CRUZ

Duo nabbed for breaking into bike shops

A couple was arrested early Monday after breaking windows at two cycle shops on Mission Street and stealing bikes valued at $5,000, police said.

Thomas Wingo, 24, and Jessica Vanbrug, 32, first tried their luck at Sprockets Bikes Santa Cruz near Bay Street close to midnight, but the owner was still in the store and they ran when confronted, Sgt. Dave Perry said.

A short time later, an alarm sounded at Epicenter Cycling a few blocks west. Police found the window had been shattered and two high-end bikes had been stolen, Perry said.

Police spotted Wingo and Vanbrug on King Street and arrested them on suspicion of burglary and conspiracy. Wingo was also arrested on suspicion of obstructing officers and violating probation.

SANTA CRUZ

Police ID driver who hit pole, knocked out power

Police on Sunday identified the man driving a pickup that struck a power pole in Beach Flats on Saturday, knocking out power to thousands of customers in downtown Santa Cruz, the Seabright area and elsewhere.

The driver of the white GMC truck and a passenger allegedly fled the scene after the truck struck a sign, a fence and then sheered off the pole at its base near Third and Kaye streets along the levee, police said.

Officers found the driver near the crash scene, shortly after the 8 p.m. accident, with the help of witnesses, Lt. Colleen McMahon said.

Jose Mejia, 19, of Aromas was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, fleeing police and giving false information to officers, McMahon said. His 18-year-old passenger, also from Aromas, was arrested on suspicion of being under the influence, she said.

The accident left some 12,000 PG&E customers in the dark, though the vast majority had power back that night, PG&E said.

Streets in the area were closed as well, some until Sunday afternoon, as utility crews worked to repair the damage.