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O.C. man convicted of orchestrating parents' murder for Y2K money [Updated]

June 1, 2010 |  2:19 pm

A Garden Grove man was convicted Tuesday of orchestrating the 1999 stabbing murder of his parents in order to steal money they had stored in a safe deposit box in anticipation of a potential Y2K computer glitch.

A Superior Court jury in Orange County found Jose Alonso Najera Jr., 29, guilty of one felony count of first- degree murder for the death of his father and one felony count of second-degree murder for the death of his mother. The jury also found special circumstances for murder for financial gain and multiple murders.

Worried they could lose their savings in connection with the Y2K millennium bug, Jose and Elena Najera withdrew money from their savings accounts in 1999 and put it in a safe deposit box their son had access to, according to prosecutors.

Najera Jr., then 19, convinced high school friend Gerald Thomas Johnson to kill his parents while he and his friends had a party at Johnson's house, prosecutors said. Najera allegedly left the window of the family home open for Johnson to get inside.

Prosecutors said Johnson drove to the Najera house in the early morning hours of Dec. 28, 1999, entered through the open window wearing a ski mask and killed Jose Sr., 42, and Elena, 46.  Each victim was stabbed 20 times, prosecutors said.

Johnson fled the scene, and Najera later called 911 to report he had found his parents dead on the floor, pretending to know nothing about the plot, prosecutors said.

Johnson, 29, of Villa Park was convicted in 2002 of murdering Najera's parents and is serving a sentence of life in prison without parole. He was linked to the crime through hair samples and DNA evidence on the ski mask, which was discarded at the crime scene.

Garden Grove police charged Najera after reviewing the case in 2008. He is scheduled to be sentenced later this month.

[Updated at 2:30 p.m.: Johnson committed suicide in prison in 2008, the same year Najera was charged in connection with the murder of his parents.]

-- Tony Barboza