The long-running case of the youngest person ever charged as an adult in San Mateo County might come to a conclusion today after several twists that include a jail escape and alleged witness intimidation.
Josue Orozco was 14 years old in 2005 when he allegedly shot 21-year-old rival gang member Francisco Rodriguez in the back of the head.
While awaiting trial for the alleged killing, Orozco fled from the Youth Services Center in the Eichler Highlands neighborhood near San Mateo by leaping over a wall Feb. 14, 2008, with the help of two other inmates.
The teenager remained on the lam for months before being taken back into custody in Texas. Orozco was nabbed in San Antonio using the fictitious name and birthdays of Jesus Contreras, born Dec. 27, 1989, according to authorities. There were several active warrants in that name from the area, including one for falsely identifying himself and two for burglary with force, Bexar County sheriff’s deputy Ino Badillo said at the time.
Once back in San Mateo County, the illegal dealings by Orozco allegedly continued from inside jail.
Prosecutors allege Orozco used his girlfriend and other friends to intimidate witnesses from testifying in court to the alleged murder. The witness-intimidation allegations went on for 10 months, stretching from May 2009 to March 2010, according to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.
Orozco allegedly made phone calls from the San Mateo County jail using Spanish “gangster street language” to relay intimidation instructions to friends in Redwood City, which included witnesses changing previous testimony and not showing up in court, Wagstaffe said.
The first time Orozco faced a trial for the alleged murder in 2005, it ended with a deadlocked jury.
Now Orozco faces the murder charge again, along with 19 felony conspiracy counts of witness intimidation, Wagstaffe said.
Orozco was initially expected to enter a plea Thursday, but the case was continued because a Spanish interpreter was not available in the courtroom, Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti said.
Should the case not be resolved today, a jury trial is scheduled to begin Monday.
Examiner correspondent Alexis Terrazas contributed to this report.