Jury finds second man guilty of Santa Cruz jailhouse murder

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SANTA CRUZ — After an extensive trial and nearly three days of deliberation, a Santa Cruz County jury found a 29-year-old former Watsonville man guilty of gang-related first-degree murder this week.

Jason Cortez.
Jason Cortez. 

Jason Cortez was convicted of killing Santa Cruz County Jail cellmate German Carrillo on the morning of Oct. 13, 2022.

A third cellmate, Mario Lozano, was similarly found guilty in a separate trial last year and was sentenced to multiple life sentences for both Carrillo’s murder and the unrelated 2004 Watsonville slaying of Isaac Guzman.

Cortez, who took the stand in his own defense last week, testified to his long-time membership as a gang member and that he held positions of authority within the gang over the years, but denied direct involvement in the gagging, stabbing and strangling of Carrillo at the gang’s direction. He did admit to witnessing the killing, which he pinned on Lozano, and of helping to cover up the death before corrections officers discovered Carrillo’s lifeless body in bed some 36 hours later.

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