CHINO, Calif. (KABC) — Two brothers were found guilty of murder in connection with the death of a groom at his 2019 wedding reception in Chino, prosecutors announced Tuesday.
According to a jury verdict rendered on Feb. 9, Rony and Josue Castaneda were guilty of second-degree murder in the killing of Joe Melgoza, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
The Castaneda brothers were also convicted of assault with a deadly weapon to injure the bride’s brother.
Joe and Esther Melgoza were married on Dec. 14, 2019. The groom was celebrating his wedding hours before the violent incident occurred in the early morning hours of Dec. 15, at a family home where the reception included a mariachi band, a photo booth, bar, DJ and dance floor, investigators said.
“Although the Casteneda brothers did not have any apparent connection to the wedding party, they lived nearby and likely heard the festivities and went to the reception, uninvited,” the DA’s statement said. “At the reception, the brothers were seen socializing, dancing and taking photos with female guests.”
The brothers left but later returned, unknownst to Melgoza and his family, armed with baseball bats, according to prosecutors.
“When the Castaneda brothers returned, they did so on a trail behind the house where the reception was held,” the press release said. “Standing in the dark behind a fence they made antagonistic statements for Melgoza to jump over the fence to their side. Once Melgoza and his family jumped the fence, the brothers started hitting them all with bats and fists.”
A family member was able to take a bat from one of the Castaneda brothers, who ran into a nearby home. Melgoza, who was unarmed, followed them.
Minutes later, authorities said, the defendants were seen hopping a fence out of the unrelated residence with a single bat, which was never found.
Chino police officers responded to the scene and found Melgoza dead in the yard where the Castaneda brothers were last seen. Melgoza’s official cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma to the head, and he died within minutes, officials said.
Although Josue Castaneda denied attending the reception, after the arrests a photo-booth picture of both brothers and one of the female guests from the reception was found in his front pocket.
Snapchat information also helped Chino police in identifying the two assassins.
“Although this conviction can never undo the pain caused by two individual’s actions, I hope it brings a measure of closure to the wife and loved ones of Joe Melgoza,” San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson said in a statement.
Rony and Josue Castaneda are scheduled to be sentenced on March 13.