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All three men charged in connection to murder of Yuma man plead not guilty

Two brothers and another suspect enter not guilty plea in court Monday

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - After being formally charged with first-degree murder last week, two brothers and one other suspect, accused of murdering a 27-year-old man in a Somerton neighborhood, have pled not guilty.

Over a month after Leo Melendez’s murder, two brothers, 32-year-old Joshua Escalante Cota and 21-year-old Gregorio Cota, as well as the third suspect 26-year-old Johnny Albert Valenzuela, were charged with one-count of first-degree murder and one-count of conspiracy to commit murder.

Monday in court, the three suspects were transferred to Yuma County Superior Court to be arraigned for their charges - and they all entered a not guilty plea.

They will all be back in court in August.

On May 30, around 3:34 a.m., SPD's public information officer, Lieutenant Jose Garza says they were dispatched to 428 E. Orchid at about 3:35 a.m. about a man being shot inside his own garage.

Lieutenant Garza says a family member inside the home made the call.

Melendez was taken to Yuma Regional Medical Center where he later succumbed to his injuries.

Melendez was a well-known barber in the Yuma and Somerton communities and just six months ago, he left his place of work at Stay Faded Barbershop to venture out and start his own business.

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Cole Johnson

Cole Johnson is News 11’s Sports Director.

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Jacqueline Aguilar

Jacqueline Aguilar is Yuma native who joined KYMA in January 2022.

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Laura Meza

Nacida en Downey, California y criada en Mexicali, Baja California México, Laura Meza es egresada como Licenciada en Ciencias de la Comunicación en la Universidad de Estudios Avanzados (UNEA).


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