He was a young cop with about 1½ years of patrol experience under his belt when the 20-year-old stabbing victim died before his eyes.
“Seeing that had an impact on me,” Mike Martin recalls.
Now a detective sergeant who supervises the Crimes Against Persons Unit at the Garden Grove PD, Martin, 54, recently has been thinking a lot about that murder in the chilly pre-dawn hours nearly 30 years ago in what was then the notorious crime-infested neighborhood of Buena Clinton.
That’s because an arrest was made last week in the cold-case homicide that Martin had a detective start re-examining last year in the hopes that new information or new evidence would surface.
It did, and now a 60-year-old Corona man police long have suspected of committing the murder — Jesus “Jesse” Menchaca, a career drug dealer who lived with his mother — is being held at the Orange County Jail on $1 million bail.
And Martin and numerous colleagues at the GGPD are feeling the satisfaction of knowing that one of the agency’s 50-plus cold-case homicides now is in the hands of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.
“It took some luck and a lot of hard work and teamwork from (officers) in other units for us to get to this point,” said Det. Mike Farley, who was tapped by Martin last year to be the fresh set of eyes to re-examine the Dec. 18, 1985 stabbing death of Scott Raymond Hall, 20, of Fountain Valley.
“These types of cases always are a group effort,” Martin said.
A COLD NIGHT
Martin was patrolling the blighted and dangerous Buena Clinton neighborhood when, at around 3:30 a.m. on Dec. 18, 1985, he happened upon a peculiar sight.
A maroon Dodge van was approaching him with its side doors swinging open.
“I thought that was kind of odd,” Martin recalled.
As Martin made the stop, the panicky male driver said: “My friend’s been stabbed!”
Lying on his back in the back of the van was Hall, his chest bloodied by several stab wounds.
Hall gasped for air as he choked on his blood.
“I’m dying,” Hall told the rookie officer.
“Who did this to you?” Martin asked him.
Martin then put the 20-year-old on his side to help him breath, but it was too late.
Hall died in the back of the van.
Martin took off his blood-soaked jacket as other units and paramedics rolled to the scene.
Garden Grove detectives later would determine that Hall and his friend had gone to an apartment in the 12600 block of Sunswept Avenue in the Buena Clinton neighborhood to purchase drugs — a common but very dangerous practice at the time.
Because the case has just gone to the DA’s Office, Martin and Farley aren’t divulging many details of the killing, other than saying that Hall was stabbed in a carport multiple times in the chest.
“It was a drug deal gone bad,” Farley said.
Hall then staggered to a courtyard and his friend put him in the van to take him to the hospital.
That’s when Martin, about halfway through his graveyard shift, happened upon the van.
Hall, who was living with his parents in Fountain Valley, had gone with his friend to the Garden Grove neighborhood to purchase cocaine, Farley said.
At the time of the stabbing, Menchacha was 30 and living in Stanton.
In 1992, Menchaca and a second suspect, Brenda Kaye Strahan, 35 years old at the time and a resident of Lancaster, were arrested for Hall’s murder. The case went to the DA but was dropped after a witness went south and prosecutors determined they didn’t have enough evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to successfully prosecute Menchaca and Strahan.
Flash forward to 2014.
Martin, who took over the GGPD’s Crimes Against Persons Unit in 2010, asked Farley to give the Hall homicide another look.
Farley resubmitted some old evidence to be re-tested.
New physical evidence — DNA that the GGPD won’t detail — was located that linked Menchaca to the homicide. Martin and Farley said that additional witnesses to the homicide also surfaced.
Convinced they had their man in Menchaca, Martin and Farley, relying on the help of other GGPD officers, put a tail on Menchaca about a month ago (Strahan died of natural causes several years ago.) The 24/7 surveillance included hours spent in hot cars in weather exceeding 100 degrees.
The GGPD wanted to learn Menchaca’s routine, whom he spent time with — basically, collect any intelligence that would make their case even stronger.
On Sept. 3, the decision was made to take Menchaca into custody.
At around 9:15 a.m., and with assistance from the Corona PD, GGPD officers observed Menchaca leave his mother’s house and drive her Chrysler New Yorker to a Stater Bros. about a half-mile away.
There, in the parking lot of the supermarket, they arrested Menchaca without incident.
Farley called Hall’s mother to tell her the news.
She was happy and thanked the Garden Grove PD for never forgetting her son.
Said Farley, 47, of cold-case homicides: “We never forget about the victims.”
Menchaca is being held at the Theo Lacy Facility in Orange and is scheduled to appear in court Oct. 10, according to online records of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.