One look on Wikipedia will tell you that Juan Corona was convicted of murdering 25 migrant farm workers in 1973. He was sentenced to life in prison, and continues to serve that sentence today in Soledad, California. Keep searching, and you will find that the murders were gruesome, allegedly carried out with a machete. However, 'history' takes many forms on the internet, and much of it is fiction. Only through consulting well-documented research will you find an accurate depiction of the crimes, including the evidence used at trial. Twenty-five Murders (and probably more): Looking for a Reason, a book by John B. Dickson, includes an in-depth review of the two trials (there was an appeal following the first conviction) and the circumstances surrounding the case.
But did he do it?
Of course, the official record shows that Juan Corona was convicted of these crimes in two separate trials, nearly a decade apart. And yet, the question of his guilt has been examined by countless lawyers, authors, and internet fanatics many times in the nearly 45 years since his conviction. I decided to begin my research with the magazine article given to me by my husband's aunt. Because it was published before the verdict was handed down, it offers a unique, early perspective. According to this journalist, "deep down, no one is evil. Juan Corona, the hard-working laborer and honorable father, unjustly punished by adversity." This well-researched piece provides an apparently unbiased look at the many facets of the case: the overtly ambitious sheriff, the unreliable witnesses, incompetent defense lawyers, the damning evidence, and Juan's battle with schizophrenia. In short, nothing is ever as simple as it seems.
I will leave it to you to decide. For now, let's move onto the Medina family, and their relationship to the enigma of Juan Corona.
The Medina family remembers Juan Corona as the brother of their 'cousin' Natividad Corona. While they spent years of their youth with Natividad, they knew very little of Juan. With no recollection of exactly how they are related, my husband's aunts and uncles do know that Natividad was called 'cousin' by their father, Jose Jesus Medina, and was a 'padrino' to one of them. The term, 'cousin,' of course, does not make for an easy starting place in genealogical research. I meet a 'cousin' at nearly every genealogy conference I attend. However, it's not an impossible place to begin - they knew each other and lived in the same small town near Guadalajara. So, I began by building the family tree of Juan Corona.
Juan Corona was born on February 7, 1934 in Ayutla, Jalisco, Mexico to parents Sebastian Corona Larios and Cándida Vallejo Uribe. Through my research, I located not only the baptismal record for Juan, but for several of his brothers and sisters, as well. While I was unable to locate the border-crossing documents that would indicate when he traveled to the United States, several biographies of his life suggest that he was living in the Sacramento region by the 1950s.
Based on this initial two-generation tree, there is no relation to the Medina family. So, I continued with Natividad. Though his tree is the same, I had hoped I would find something among his documents that would fill in the gaps.
The search for Natividad's birth records was a challenge. I used multiple databases, and various versions of his parents' names. Though I did uncover a 1930 Mexico census that listed an approximate age (as well as other siblings), a census does not confirm the exact birth date.
...And then I saw it. Guadalupe and Natividad were 12 and 10, respectively in 1930. The father, Sebastian, was 40. The mother, Cándida, was 22. Now, there are young mothers, of course. But, this is not what occurred here. She would have been 10 years old at the birth of her first child. No, this must be a second marriage for Sebastian.
Perhaps the mother of Natividad and Guadalupe would reveal the connection to the Medina family?