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Somerton barber murder suspect plea deal denied

One of the suspects accused of murdering a 27-year-old man in May 2022 appeared in court

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - 34-year-old Joshua Cota’s plea deal for the second-degree murder of 27-year-old Leo Melendez for 20 years behind bars was rejected in court.

The courtroom was packed with emotion from the victim’s family as Judge Roger Nelson turned down the agreement.

“We want justice for our brother for being brutally murdered in his house and we just feel that it’s not right how they're wanting to give the murderer 2nd degree and the fact that he has a plea is not right in the first place," said Aneli Gonzalez, victim's sister.

Judge Nelson said if Cota would have shown at least some remorse, he would have accepted the deal for 20 years in prison. 

Cota’s Defense Attorney Richard Parks then withdrew the plea agreement and asked for a new judge. 

Another suspect in this case, Johnny Valenzuela, will appear in court in December. 

Article Topic Follows: Yuma County

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Samantha Byrd

Samantha Byrd joined the KYMA team in February 2022 and is a reporter and anchor for Fox 9.

You can reach out to her with story ideas at sammy.byrd@kecytv.com

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