SANTA CRUZ — A Watsonville man has pleaded guilty to the murder of his 25-year-old wife.
Cesar Antonio Hernandez, 49, was arrested after the body of Brenda Becerra was found in the family’s car, parked on Mission Drive in Live Oak, outside Becerra’s workplace. Hours earlier on that Oct. 15, 2020 morning, family members had called police to report Becerra missing after Hernandez dropped off the couple’s two young children unannounced and with little explanation. Family then went to the couple’s home and found a stripped bed, only the odor of cleaning chemicals remaining.
Four days later, Hernandez was taken into custody as he crossed from Mexico back into the United States.
After his May 12, 2021 preliminary hearing, Hernandez was held to answer on his wife’s murder. During that hearing, details of the hours leading up to Becerra’s death became apparent. Hernandez had gotten a friend to let the air out of tires of his wife’s vehicle while she was at work, planning to show up just in time “to become the hero” for her. The two, according to hearing testimony, had been having marital troubles. In the early hours of the next morning, Hernandez reportedly called a friend in whom he had confided his surprise plans, saying the whole night had gone wrong when he had found out his wife was having an affair, according to police testimony.
During a trial readiness hearing Wednesday, Hernandez pleaded no contest in a stipulated resolution with the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office to felony charges of second-degree murder and two counts of willful cruelty to a child with possible injury. Jury selection in Hernandez’s murder trial was scheduled to begin Sept. 19.
According to court records, Hernandez is expected to face sentencing next month of 15-years-to-life for the murder charge, as well as four years for the first willful cruelty charge and one year, four months for the second. Per the plea agreement, he will serve the first five years, four months before the 15-years-to-life. Enhancements for committing violent felonies are set to be dismissed at Hernandez’s sentencing.
Hernandez is scheduled to appear at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 28 before Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Paul Burdick for sentencing.