A jury has found two California brothers guilty of second-degree murder for breaking into a wedding reception and then killing the groom, prosecutors announced Wednesday.
The guilty verdict comes nearly two years after the fatal fight in the early morning hours of December 15, 2019. That day, Rony and Josue Castaneda turned up uninvited at the reception for newly married couple Joe and Esther Melgoza. in the family residence.
Prosecutors believe the brothers lived nearby and overheard the celebration, which included a mariachi band. Guests saw the couple dancing and socializing at the event, authorities said.
The festivities took a tragic turn after the Castaneda brothers were asked to leave. They left the reception and returned armed with baseball bats. The two antagonized Melgoza behind the family home and told him to jump over the fence to her side, prosecutors said.
“Once Melgoza and his family jumped over the fence, the brothers began beating them all with bats and fists,” prosecutors wrote in a news release.
A family member took a bat from one of the Castaneda brothers, who then fled to an unrelated nearby home. Melgoza followed them to the patio. Minutes later, she was seen the brothers jumping over the fence of another unrelated house with a bat that was never recovered.
Responding officers found Melgoza in the yard. He was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead from blunt force trauma to the head, according to authorities.
Josué Castañeda denied being present at the celebration. However, following the brothers’ arrest, a photo booth photo was recovered from his front pocket showing him, his brother, and a guest at the reception.
The brothers are scheduled to be sentenced on March 13, 2023. Lawyers for the brothers could not immediately be identified.
«While this conviction can never undo the pain caused by the actions of two people, I hope it provides closure for the wife and loved ones of Joe Melgoza,» said San Bernardino District Attorney Jason Anderson.