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Local News

Woman Tied to Orcutt Slaying Seeks Resentencing After Landing in ICE Custody

Mayra Perez
Mayra Perez

A Santa Maria Superior Court judge denied a request seeking a lighter sentence for a woman ordered to spend a year in jail for helping her husband following a fatal shooting Old Town Orcutt.

Mayra Perez, 30, sought resentencing under a misdemeanor instead of a felony charge for being an accessory after a crime.

In August, she was ordered to spend 365 days in jail and five years probation for being an accessory to the fatal shooting of Anthony “Tony” San Juan, 43, last year.

Her husband, Jonathan Highley, has been charged with shooting San Juan, who was pronounced dead in a parking lot behind Elmer's bar on Clark Avenue.

After being released from county jail, Perez landed in the custody of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Adelanto. She was in the Santa Maria courtroom for the hearing Wednesday.

“Since I am fighting my case here with ICE, I am also respectfully requesting for the courts to approve my request for resentencing,” she said in a hand-written statement. “I have four children who only have me as their parent and are waiting for their mother to come home.”

In court Wednesday morning, defense attorney David Bixby told the judge that Perez has no prior criminal convictions, and said the woman was scared and under extreme stress after learning of the shooting.

“It was a nightmare. It was just a nightmare that was created and she responded or reacted to the nightmare, rather than as she would normally,” Bixby said.

During the August hearing, Bixby pleaded for the judge to sentence Perez to spend 364 days in jail, not 365. The extra day meant ICE was more likely to take Perez, who was born in Mexico and reportedly brought to the United States as a child, into custody for possible deportation.

Deputy District Attorney Anne Nudson said Perez knew her husband had shot someone, traveled from Merced with her children, and moved the weapon from the residence to the vehicle.

At the time of the plea, Perez knew deportation could be a consequence of her actions in the case, Nudson added.

“There’s no declaration as to why it would be in the interest of justice,” Nudson said. 

Judge Gustavo Lavayen denied the motion, saying Perez had time to contemplate her actions before returning to Orcutt from Merced.

“Quite frankly, in my mind her actions were very deliberate,” the judge said. “She had multiple hours upon which to reflect on her actions. Her actions were not primarily in regard to concern for her children.”

Instead, her actions put her children and herself in jeopardy, Lavayen said. 

“They were clearly actions that she took with mindfulness of what was going on at the time,” the judge added. “Quite frankly, Mr. Bixby, this was a difficult sentencing and I did seriously consider imposing prison.”

Perez also had sought a lesser sentence under Proposition 47. However, that law focused on reducing felonies to misdemeanors for drug-related offenses so she wasn't eligible, Nudson said.

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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