Emergency personnel on scene of a fatal shooting in the area of Highway 101 and North Broadway.
The scene of a 2021 fatal shooting in the area of Highway 101 and North Broadway. Credit: KCOY News photo

A Santa Maria man has pleaded guilty to murder in Santa Barbara County Superior Court for a May 2021 shooting where the victim was found dead in a vehicle at the Highway 101 Broadway interchange at the north end of the city.

Erik Rocha Fernandez, 22, changed his plea to guilty of first-degree murder and admitted an enhancement for use of a firearm during a March hearing. 

Shooting victim Frankie Placido Hernandez, 29, was found in a vehicle near the Highway 101 overpass at North Broadway shortly after 2 a.m. May 28, 2021, according to police.

Investigators determined that the shooting occurred near a business on the 100 block of East Grant Street.

Police identified Rocha Fernandez as the suspect wanted for the shooting and arrested him a day later while he was riding a bicycle near Donovan Road and Elm Street in north Santa Maria.

Rocha Fernandez also pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of another man and conspiracy to commit witness intimidation by force or fear, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

He will return to court on Friday morning when he will receive a sentence of 10 years followed by 25 years to life in the state prison. 

Senior Deputy District Attorney Madison Whitmore represented the District Attorney’s Office for the case which was investigated by Santa Maria Police Department Detective Zack Robbins. 

Attorney Sydney Bennett represented the defendant.

Rocha Fernandez has remained in the custody of the Santa Barbara County Jail since his arrest.

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com.