Verdict reached in Maria Ceja murder and kidnapping case

FRESNO, Calif.

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Jurors deliberated until about two a.m. Friday at the Merced County Courthouse to decide the fate of Maria Ceja. The extended deliberations were necessary because all four alternate jurors were excused, and another has to attend a funeral on Friday.

Prosecutors argued that Maria Ceja was the mastermind behind a plot to kill 26-year-old Ana De Ceja in December 2010. Thursday, the defense argued it was Maria's then-fiance, Jose Velarde, who carried out the killing, and she didn't know about his plan.

"Detective Sanchez asked Velarde, so tell us what Teresa was doing. Nothing. And then a few pages later you see, was this both of your ideas? Was this Teresa's too? He says, no just mine," said Jeffrey Tenenbaum, defense attorney.

Closing arguments in Velarde's case are continuing on Friday. A judge has issued a gag order on Ceja's case until the closing arguments in Velarde's case are complete.

Both face a maximum of life in prison.

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