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Gang murderer will stay in prison
• Juan Ochoa considered too dangerous for release
parole board

Juan Ochoa, 32, of Modesto, will not be leaving state prison anytime soon as he serves out a sentence for a March 23, 2006 murder outside of a Crows Landing Road smoke shop.

Ochoa was denied parole during a Nov. 19 hearing of the State Board of Parole Hearings held at Sacramento State Prison.

In early 2010, Ochoa pled guilty to second-degree murder of 18-year-old Jair Garcia before Judge Ricardo Cordova who sentenced Ochoa to serve 15 years to life in state prison.

On March 23, 2006, Ochoa, wearing a red hat, and victim Jair Garcia, wearing blue clothing, got into an argument in front of a smoke shop on Crows Landing Road that ended when Ochoa pulled out a handgun and fatally shot Garcia several times. Ochoa got into his car and drove away. Several witnesses identified Ochoa as the gunman and he was subsequently arrested and charged with the murder.

While in prison, Ochoa has been involved with the Norteno gang and received counseling memos for promoting gang activity through written material. In 2013, he participated in a prison riot and was cited for destroying state property. He also received six rules violations for possessing a cellphone in prison. Two tattoos on his head indicated he was associated or involved with the Nuestra Familia prison gang, something he denied during his assessment with a prison psychologist. In a report to the parole board, the psychologist gave the opinion that Ochoa presented a high risk for violence if released back into the community.

The victim’s family also appeared at the hearing and expressed fear over Ochoa’s potential release, believing they would be in danger if he were to be paroled. 

Special Prosecutor Amy Elliott Neumann argued for Ochoa’s continued confinement based on his lack of self-help programming, his record of institutional discipline and demonstrated lack of insight into what caused him to commit his crimes.

After deliberations, the Board denied parole for seven years, noting that Ochoa lacked credibility in denying obvious gang involvement and his significant history of prison rule violations.

This was Ochoa’s first parole hearing. Pursuant to recent Youthful Offender Legislation, Ochoa has a right to request his next hearing be advanced to an earlier date if he believes he has made progress towards release. Otherwise his next hearing date will be sometime in 2027.