SANTA CRUZ—A Watsonville man has pleaded no contest to killing his wife two years ago, and faces at least two decades in prison when he is sentenced on Oct. 28.
In making the plea to one count of second-degree murder and two counts of child endangerment, Cesar Antonio Hernandez agreed to a sentence of 15 years to life, and a consecutive sentence of five years, four months.
His public defender Davis Hewitt declined to comment further on the case.
Police believe that Hernandez, now 49, murdered Brenda Becerra at their Watsonville home on the 700 block of Rodriguez Street on Oct. 14, 2020, and then drove her in the family’s Ford SUV and abandoned her body and the vehicle on Mission Drive in Santa Cruz.
Her body was found about nine hours later. Police say she died from blunt force head injuries, and mechanical asphyxia, meaning she was strangled.
Becerra was reported missing at 3am on Oct. 15, about a half-hour after Hernandez dropped off the couple’s two young children with family members in Watsonville.
Hernandez, a Mexican citizen, was arrested returning to the U.S. after crossing into that country, after Border Patrol agents stopped him as he made his way through the checkpoint. WPD detectives drove overnight to arrest him.
Becerra’s relatives described Hernandez as a “monster” who was verbally and mentally abusive to her.
She was described as a devoted mother and a sociable woman who loved the outdoors and had plans to attend college and wanted to work in the medical field. She worked at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz as a cleaner. Her young children are now living with relatives.