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Menlo Park man involved in 2014 homicide pleads no contest to accessory charge

Menlo Park resident Herson Cruz charged with shooting 18-year-old Nazario Barajas

The getaway driver in a 2014 East Palo Alto fatal shooting pleaded no contest to assault and accessory to murder charges on Wednesday, while his co-defendant is set to stand trial for murder later this year, prosecutors said today.

Menlo Park resident Herson Cruz, 24, had also been charged with murder for the Aug. 17, 2014, shooting of 18-year-old Nazario Barajas, but agreed to plead no contest to the accessory charge and a felony assault charge in exchange for a sentence of no more than five years in prison, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office.

He was sentenced to four years in prison by Judge Leland Davis and has over three years' credit for time served already.

Prosecutors said Barajas was a passenger in a car that Cruz was driving behind on Georgetown Street near Purdue Avenue after Barajas and several friends had just left a party at the Westpark apartments. Cruz cut them off and forced them to stop at about 11:35 p.m.

Cruz's co-defendant, 26-year-old Antonio Sotelo-Moreno, got out of Cruz's car and approached the other car, prosecutors said.

"Where's Chayo?" he asked, using Barajas' nickname. Barajas was sitting in the backseat and after a short fight, Sotelo-Moreno allegedly fired several times into the car, hitting Barajas and three other people in the backseat, prosecutors said.

Barajas was pronounced dead at the scene. The other victims' injuries were minor.

Cruz and Sotelo-Moreno remained at large for months. Cruz was arrested on Dec. 29, 2014, when he was spotted by an off-duty police officer. Sotelo-Moreno fled to Mexico and remained free for more than a year but was arrested with the help of U.S. marshals and returned to the U.S. on Nov. 5 last year.

Sotelo-Moreno has been indicted for the murder charge and is scheduled to stand trial on Nov. 14.

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