San Joaquin County
District Attorney's Office
OFFICE OF THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY 222 E. Weber Ave., Room 202, Stockton, CA
P. O. Box 990, Stockton, CA 95201
T (209) 468-2400 | F (209) 465-0371
TORI VERBER SALAZAR District Attorney Scott A. Fichtner Assistant District Attorney Kristine M. Reed Assistant District Attorney James Bojko Chief Investigator
News from the Office of District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar
For Immediate Release
February 19, 2021
CONTACT: Angela Hayes, Deputy District Attorney
T: (209) 468-2400 | E:

Arraignment of 41-year-old Cold Case Homicide

Stockton - Today, District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar announced that Emilio Baraza Valdez, age 75, was to be arraigned on an Information charging him with the 1979 murder of Joe Rocha, which occurred at Rocha's 120 Club in Escalon, California.

"Through the tenacity of the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Cold Case Unit detectives and the skill of former investigators, an arrest and prosecution in this case was possible," said District Attorney Verber Salazar. "We are especially thankful that Mr. Rocha's 91-year-old widow, Helen, was not only able to live to see this day, but was able to participate and provide her valuable testimony."

Over the course of two days, the Honorable Linda Lofthus heard testimony at a preliminary hearing before holding Emilio Valdez to answer for the murder of Joe Rocha.

According to official records, in 2016, Captain Brian Barnes, who was at the time in charge of the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Cold Case Unit, conducted follow up on this case and identified Emilio Baraza Valdez as a person of interest. In 2020, Detectives Chris Matsuoka and Irene Shelvay located him in Pomona, California and arrested him for the murder.

Both Elbert Holman and Jerome Salmeron, two of the original Deputies involved in the investigation in 1979, testified at the preliminary hearing. The citizens of San Joaquin County are fortunate enough to have benefitted from both their past exemplary work and their present compelling testimony.

The attorney for Mr. Valdez declared a doubt as to his competency to stand trial and the proceedings were suspended. Emilio Baraza Valdez will return to court on March 18, 2021, for receipt of a doctor's evaluation. He remains in custody in lieu of a $3 million bail.