No plea deal was on the table but Saldana's trial was set to begin next week. The DA said Saldana admitted to killing 49-year-old Denise McVay. She was stabbed to death at a car wash in Hanford in July 2011.
A tiny tree and a plaque reading 'In loving memory of our beloved care partner' now sit outside the Kings Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Hanford. This is where Denise McVay worked the weekend shift as a certified nurses' assistant, just before she was killed.
"We have a memorial here so every time we pull up to come to work we see it, we're kind of reminded of it," said McVay's friend Becky Lackey. "We've always been thinking, will she get answers for what happened to her, it's kind of a little relief."
The murder still has a deep impact on McVay's former co-workers. "Sometimes we remember her, we sit there and talk about her and remember how she was," said Monica Camarillo. "That helps me remember her, the person she was. It gets me sad sometimes, you know. Because I know she's gone."
McVay was killed at a car wash in Hanford early on a summer morning nearly two years ago. A detective testified Jose Saldana stabbed McVay more than 60 times. A friend testified that Saldana flipped a coin that night to decide McVay's fate. Tails she would live, heads she would die. Saldana and that friend were eventually arrested at Tachi Palace Casino. A security guard spotted McVay's stolen Honda there.
"It's a very gruesome crime, we're happy to have it behind us certainly," said Kings County District Attorney Larry Crouch. He told Action News in addition to murder Saldana admitted to a trio of special circumstances, including torture.
"The trauma to the victims, it's a blessing to avoid that, them having to come to court and find out things they don't really want to know, I'm sure," Crouch said.
"I'm relieved that finally there's going to be justice for her, for her family for her daughter. She's going to have peace now," said Camarillo.
There is no word on what prompted Saldana to change his plea. His attorney did not return phone calls seeking comment. The DA said the evidence against Saldana guaranteed a conviction.
Saldana will be sentenced on June third. He's facing life without parole. But the DA said since Saldana was 17 when he murdered McVay the judge will have to review a request for a shorter sentence.