Man admits taking part in 1998 murder on Seneca Indian Reservation

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A Rochester man now admits he took part in the murder of Francisco Santos on the Seneca Indian Reservation in Erie County back in 1998.

Federal authorities say the victim was a member of the drug distribution conspiracy that operated from 1993 to 2011 in the Rochester area and was believed to have stolen drugs and money from other members of the conspiracy. Pablo Plaza and other members of the conspiracy assaulted Santos, who was slashed across the side of the head.

One member of the drug conspiracy was arrested on assault charges. To prevent Santos from testifying, in October 1998, Plaza and a group of other co-conspirators took Santos to the Seneca Indian Reservation, stabbed him to death and then buried him in a shallow grave.

Plaza, now 38, admitted stabbing Santos and seeing other co-conspirators stab Santos.

In addition to Santos’ murder, Plaza told prosecutors he was present when Ryan Cooper was beaten to death in Rochester. Cooper had learned of Santos’ murder and wanted to go to police. Cooper was in Plaza’s apartment when two co-conspirators came over and beat Cooper to death. Bags containing his remains were later dumped behind a school near some railroad tracks in Rochester.

Plaza was charged with four others for Santos’ murder, including James Kendrick; Pablo Plaza born in 1972 (Plaza’s older brother with the same name); Janine Plaza Pierce, the mother of Kendrick and the older Plaza; and Angelo Cruz. Kendrick has also been charged with Cooper’s murder. All four are expected to go on trial later this year or early 2015.

Plaza will be sentenced in September and faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 20 years and a maximum of life. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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