Yuma Sun

Man gets time to consider plea offer in murder case

- BY JAMES GILBERT Sun STAFF Writer James Gilbert can be reached at jgilbert@ yumasun.com or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ Ysjamesgil­bert or on twitter @Ysjamesgil­bert.

A decision on whether to accept a plea agreement by one of the three men charged in connection to a shooting last year that left one man dead has been postponed after a Yuma County Superior Court judge granted a continuanc­e on Thursday.

In providing the court with an update on the status of his client’s case, attorney Richard Parks of the Yuma County Public Defender’s Office explained that a settlement conference had been held and that he has made a counteroff­er to the plea currently being offered to his client.

In requesting the continuanc­e, Parks said, “it would be prudent.”

Parks represents Joshua Cota, who has been charged with premeditat­ed first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the death of 28-year-old Leonardo Melendez.

He remains in custody at the Yuma County jail on a $1 million cash-only bond.

Upon hearing no opposition from the prosecutio­n, Judge Roger Nelson granted the request and reschedule­d Cota’s hearing for 8:30 a.m. on April 20.

Cota and his brother Gregorio were arrested by Somerton police on July 7 2022, while Johnny Valenzuela Escalante was taken into custody on July 10 at his residence in Maricopa.

Escalante is also the registered owner of the vehicle used in the killing and is believed to have been the getaway driver, according to police.

On May 30, 2022, at approximat­ely 3:35 a.m. Somerton police officers responded to the 400 block of East Orchid Street after receiving a 911 call reporting that a man had been shot.

When officers arrived on scene, they found a man with a gunshot wound inside a garage.

The man, later identified as Melendez, was transporte­d by a Somerton Cocopah Fire Department ambulance to Yuma Regional Medical Center, where he later died.


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