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2 Defendants Plead Guilty in Murder of Man Found Dead Near Guadalupe in 2014

Two defendants awaiting trial for the slaying of a man found dead along the roadside west of Guadalupe four years ago have taken plea deals less than a month before their trial.

Bryan Rios pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and a gang enhancement on Wednesday, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Gresser.

He will return to court Aug. 27 to be sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison.

On Thursday, Arturo Granados pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and allegations of gang involvement and use of a firearm, Gresser said.

He will be sentenced Sept. 10 to serve four years followed by 15 years to life.

They were arrested following the killing of Javier Alcantar Limon, 37, of Santa Maria, a case investigators said was connected to drug and criminal street gang activity.

A group of farmworkers found Limon’s body just off the side of West Main Street, near the entrance to the Guadalupe Dunes, on the morning of Aug. 19, 2014. He had multiple gunshot wounds.

Weeks and months after the discovery, four men and a woman were arrested in connection with the death investigated by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.

A woman, Yesenia Granados, sister of Arturo Granados, was arrested for being an accessary, and later pleaded guilty in a deal two years ago.

Earlier, Gregorio Agustine pleaded guilty to first-degree murder with the gang allegation and will spend 25 years to life in state prison.   

That leaves one man, Joseph Brian Morales to stand trial, which is tentatively set to start next month.

At the time of the killing, Morales was serving time in state prison, and law enforcement officers say he orchestrated the death of Limon using a cellphone from his prison housing unit in Los Angeles County.

His jury trial is tentatively set to start Aug. 14 before Judge James Voysey. 

Morales has been charged with first-degree murder in addition to several special allegations such as lying in wait, murder during a robbery, murder during infliction of torture, and murder committed to benefit a street gang.

This would also be his third strike under the California Three Strikes Sentencing Law.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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