A homicide charge is being sought against a state prison inmate accused of orchestrating the murder of a Santa Maria man found dead west of Guadalupe last summer.


Joseph Morales

The announcement from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department came hours after a Santa Maria judge ruled enough evidence existed for three other defendants to be tried in connection with the death of Javier Alcantar Limon, 37, of Santa Maria.

Sheriff’s detectives alleged that 27-year-old Joseph Morales, who is a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation inmate housed in Los Angeles County, at the Lancaster prison used a cell phone to order Limon’s murder from his prison housing unit.

The Sheriff’s Department requested that the District Attorney’s Office file the homicide charge plus a special gang allegation.

Morales is serving a sentence for his role in a 2006 attempted homicide that occurred in Santa Maria. He had been incarcerated since November 2007, according to the state prison data.

Earlier Friday, the preliminary hearing for three other suspects charged in connection with Limon’s fatal shooting wrapped up in Santa Barbara County Superior Court before Judge Rogelio Flores.

Heading to trial are Santa Maria residents Gregorio Agustine, 26, and siblings Yesenia Granados, 24, and Arturo Granados, 22.

They are scheduled to return to court May 26 for an arraignment hearing, according to Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Gresser.

The three were charged earlier in connection with the Limon’s death in 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, in the morning of Aug. 19.  

The preliminary hearing included testimony from a county jail inmate who was a cellmate of Arturo Granados and allegedly recorded him making statements about the Limon’s death.

Several Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department detectives also testified during the preliminary hearing, noting the recovery of shell casings from .22-caliber and 9 mm weapons at the scene. 

Authorities determined Limon died as the result of multiple gunshot wounds.

Investigators testified during the trial about nearly two dozen contacts, including calls and texts with a phone belonging to the state prison inmate.

The three defendants were arrested in September, authorities said. 

Arturo Granados’s defense attorney is Lori Pedego while his sister is represented by David Bixby. Defense attorney Addison Steele is representing Agustine.

He and Arturo Granados are charged with murder and several special circumstances including lying in wait, kidnap, torture and committing murder for criminal street gang purposes, authorities said.

Yesenia Granados was charged with being an accessory after the fact, a gang violation and a probation violation for possession of a controlled substance.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

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