Woman gets prison term for role in fight that led to man's death

Aimee Ambrose
York Dispatch

A York City woman is headed to state prison for her role in a large fight that led to the shooting death of one man, the wounding of another and charges against six people in 2019.

Jalitza Santos, 31, was sentenced Nov. 14 after pleading guilty to an aggravated assault count in the case.

She was part of a group of people who fought in the parking lot of the 3rd Base Restaurant along the 500 block of North George Street on Sept. 22, 2019.

Jalitza Santos

During the skirmish, a person fired a gun and killed Jose Nuñez-Cruz. The 24-year-old from Dallastown and another man, Alberto Illarza-Esponda, were opponents of Santos and the group she was in, according to police.

Based on court records, the shooter has not yet been identified despite six people ultimately being arrested in the case. Requests for clarification on the possible identification of the shooter were not returned.

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Bill Graff, the attorney for another of the defendants, Jonathan Romero, told The York Dispatch in December 2020 that prosecutors tried to identify the shooter but the six co-defendants couldn't — or wouldn't — help.

"They all claim they don't know who the shooter is. … That's their story and they're sticking to it," he said. "I think they're either afraid of him or won't give him up."

According to court records, the situation started in the restaurant with an encounter between Nuñez-Cruz and Illarza-Esponda on one side, and Santos and two of the men charged in the case, Reynaldo Santana-Cruz and Carlos Torres, on the other.

Jose A. Nunez-Cruz was fatally shot on Sept. 22, 2019, in York City.

The groups spilled out into the parking lot, and tensions mounted until four more people arrived to back up Santana-Cruz, Santos and Torres, police said.

A fight erupted, and as people brawled, one person pulled a handgun and opened fire. Nuñez-Cruz was shot several times, including in the head, police said. He died from his injuries.

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The gunman pointed at another person who backed off. The suspect then pointed and shot Illarza-Esponda while he apparently tried to retreat.

Illarza-Esponda was taken to a hospital and treated for his wound.

After the fight, six people were arrested and charged, including Romero, Santos, Torres and Santana-Cruz, along with Eric Dejesus and Ashley Metic Jones.

Santos was the latest of the six to plead guilty in the case as she admitted to a felony count of aggravated assault on Aug. 2, court documents show. Two other counts of aggravated assault and three counts of conspiracy were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

She was sentenced to three to six years in state prison during a Nov. 14 hearing in the York County Court of Common Pleas.

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Santos was free on bail at the time, and she was taken into custody after the sentencing.

Six people are charged in connection with the Sept. 22, 2019, homicide of Jose Nunez-Cruz in York City.
Top row, left to right: Carlos Torres, Eric Dejesus, Reynaldo Santana-Cruz
Bottom row, left to right: Jonathan Lee Romero, Ashley Mettic Jones, Jalitza Santos

Of the other five:

  • Torres, 27, of York City, pleaded no contest to a felony count of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault in June 2020. He was sentenced to three to six years in state prison.
  • Dejesus, 27, and Romero, 24, both of York City, each pleaded guilty to a felony count of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault in December 2020. Dejesus was sentenced to five to 10 years in state prison, while Romero was ordered to serve a four-to-eight-year prison term.
  • Santana-Cruz, 25, of York City pleaded guilty to a felony aggravated assault count in July 2021, and he was sentenced that October to five to 10 years in prison.
  • Jones, 26, of York City, remains charged with three felony counts of aggravated assault and three counts of conspiracy, similar to Santos before her plea. Her next court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 20, court records show.

Counts of murder were dismissed against Torres, Dejesus, Romero and Santana-Cruz in exchange for the pleas.

— Reach Aimee Ambrose at aambrose@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @aimee_TYD.