Trial for man accused of killing North KC officer could take place in 2025

Published: May. 2, 2023 at 5:05 PM CDT
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CLAY COUNTY, Mo. (KCTV) - The family of a North Kansas City police officer who was killed in the line of duty have learned 2025 is likely the earliest his accused killer’s trial could begin.

The Clay County Prosecutor’s Office is seeking the death penalty against Joshua Rocha. In August of last year, a grand jury indicted Rocha with first-degree murder and armed criminal action charges.

The investigation began on July 19 of last year, when Officer Daniel Vasquez pulled over a driver for expired tags. Investigators say 24-year-old Rocha shot and killed Vasquez during the traffic stop, then drove away.

A manhunt followed until Rocha turned himself later that day at the Clay County Courthouse Annex.

Also read: Fallen Officer Daniel Vasquez’s handcuffs used to escort his suspected killer to arraignment hearing

On Tuesday, the judge said 2025 might be the earliest that a trial could begin due to the nature of the case, including the possibility of the death penalty.

Vasquez’s family members and law enforcement officers filled the courtroom for the hearing. Rocha appeared in person, wearing a black and white jail uniform and handcuffs.

A new public defender, Stephen Reynolds from St. Louis, has been appointed to represent Rocha. A jury is expected to be selected from St. Charles, which is near St. Louis, for a trial that will be held in Clay County.

Also read: ‘I committed murder’: Suspect admits to shooting officer, documents say

Vasquez’s sister previously spoke with KCTV5 when family members accepted a police valor award for Vasquez for “Honorary Officer of the Year.”

“We’re so proud of him because we knew that’s what he wanted to do,” said Areli Vasquez Nunez. “The way he, unfortunately, left this world was the way he wanted to be going; serving his community, serving his country as a police officer.”

Rocha is being held on a $2 million bond. An exact trial date has not been set. Rocha is scheduled to be back in court July 13 for a hearing.