TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Parole has been denied for 60-year-old Mario Villa, in the 1996 murder of a man on New Year’s Day in Orosi, according to the Office of the District Attorney of Tulare County.

Officials say that on January 1, 1996, the victim drove to a friend’s house in Orosi to celebrate the New Year and was attacked by a group of men in the street. He was beaten, bound, and transported out of town to a canal where Villa shot the defenseless man multiple times in the head, killing him. The group then attempted to burn the body to cover up the crime, according to the DA’s office.

Later that day, officials say someone saw what they thought was a victim of a traffic accident collapse along the road’s side. When fire crews responded, they roused the man, and while doing so, came upon the murdered victim’s body just a few yards away. The would-be traffic accident victim turned out to be one of the assailants that became too incapacitated to flee the scene of the murder. Once revived, he led law enforcement to the others involved, including Villa.

According to officials, during the pre-trial process Villa was found to be incompetent to stand trial and was not found competent until almost two decades later. On June 27, 2016, a Tulare County jury convicted Villa of first-degree murder with the special allegation of personal use of a firearm. On July 26, 2017, Villa was sentenced to 29 years to life in prison.

Officials say that this was Villa’s first parole hearing. The Office of the District Attorney routinely attends life parole hearings and argues against his release in this case. Villa is currently serving his life sentence at the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo.