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21 years after a body was found in North Hall, a man is sentenced in the death
Jose Luis Pacheco-Rojas.jpg
Jose Luis Pacheco-Rojas

A man accused in a $1.8 million drug bust in 2019 and then tied to a man’s death in 2000 was sentenced in both cases in the past month.

Jose Luis Pacheco-Rojas, 43, was arrested in September 2019 in a drug trafficking case and “his identity was confirmed as being connected to an outstanding murder warrant,” the Sheriff’s Office said at the time.

Authorities said Pacheco-Rojas struck Jorge Campos Ortega, 34, of Bakersfield, California, in the head with a board in September 2000. Several days later, a hunter discovered the man’s body in a wooded area near Highland Road in North Hall.

Pacheco-Rojas struck the man “while acting solely as the result of a sudden, violent and irresistible passion,” according to a formal accusation filed June 29 by Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh. 

Pacheco-Rojas had fled to Mexico, the Hall County Sheriff’s Office said in 2019 after he resurfaced in the Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad drug investigation. 

He was charged with murder in the Ortega case but took what is known as an Alford plea for voluntary manslaughter, meaning he maintains his innocence while conceding the evidence against him would likely lead to a conviction.

Defense attorney Les Aiken said witnesses tend to disappear and memories begin to fade with 20 years passing. Darragh also referenced the difficulty with the passage of time.

“In the light of the age of this case and the significant challenges inherent in reconstructing such a case for a full murder prosecution, the disposition reached was a just one,” he said in a statement.

On Wednesday, July 7, Pacheco-Rojas was given a 20-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter, with the first half to be served behind bars. The sentence will run concurrently with the 10-year sentence he received June 8 in federal court on the drug charges.

Pacheco-Rojas will receive credit for time served since September 2019.

After the first 10 years of his sentence, he would be allowed to serve time on probation, though Aiken said he believes his client would likely be deported.

In the drug case, Pacheco-Rojas pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute at least 500 grams of methamphetamine. 

MANS officials said they found 15.5 kilograms of methamphetamine, half of a kilogram of black tar heroin, a kilogram of cocaine, 2 pounds of marijuana, 14 handguns, five rifles, a shotgun and $21,500 during the September 2019 investigation at residences on Gaines Mill Road, Cronic Drive, Dixie Drive, Wallace Road and Coker Road.

Three other men were indicted in the drug case: Armando Duarte-Herrera, 28, Roberto Henriquez-Hernandez, 58, and Everardo Santiago-Moran, 42.

Duarte-Herrera was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison, while the cases for the other two men are still open.