Joe Melgoza was celebrating his nuptials on Dec. 14, 2019, when he was attacked at his wedding reception, which was held in the backyard of a family residence in Chino, about 35 miles east of Los Angeles. 

Rony Castaneda, 31, and Josue Castaneda, 22, were convicted of second-degree murder by a jury on Feb. 9 for Joe Melgoza’s death, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office announced in a press release dated Feb. 23.

They were also found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon for injuries to the brother of Melgoza’s bride, Juan Bustamonte, prosecutors said.

The Castaneda brothers are slated to be sentenced on March 14.

The brothers did not know anyone in the wedding party, prosecutors said, but lived nearby and likely heard the festivities and went to the reception, uninvited.

Wedding crashers, a photo booth and baseball bats

At the reception, the brothers were seen socializing, dancing and taking photos with female guests. At the end of the wedding reception the brothers left, then returned via a trail behind the home, armed with baseball bats, without the victim and his family knowing.

The brothers stood behind a fence and taunted Melgoza, telling him to jump to the other side, the D.A.’s office said.

“Once Melgoza and his family jumped the fence, the brothers began hitting them all with bats and fists,” the release continues. “A family member was able to pull a bat from one of the Castaneda brothers who ran into an unrelated residence. They were followed by Melgoza, who ran into the yard unarmed. A few minutes later the Castaneda brothers were seen jumping the fence out of the unrelated residence with a single bat, which was never found.”

Groom died ‘within minutes’

Chino Police Department, the initial agency to respond to the killing first attended to an injured family member, and discovered Melgoza dead in the yard where the Castaneda brothers were last seen.

A medical examiner determined the groom’s cause of death to be blunt force trauma to the head, and said he died within minutes of the attack.

Josue Castaneda denied attending the reception, but after his arrest, a photobooth image of he and his brother posing with a female guest from the reception was found in his front pocket. Snapchat information also aided Chino police in identifying the brothers, prosecutors said.

“I commend my colleagues’ dedication to this case and determination to seek justice for a family who endured such unimaginable grief during a time that should be filled love and happiness,” said District Attorney Jason Anderson. “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.”

Who was Joe Melgoza?

On the day of his killing, Melgoza married Esther Melgoza, prosecutors said.

According to his obituary:

  • He was born in Los Angeles.
  • In addition to his wife and other family members, he left behind his mother Isela Dubon and a young daughter.
  • He was employed at Ventura Foods in Ontario, California, for 10 years before his death.

Family described him as the type of person who was always willing to lend a helping hand, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“He always had a way to make you smile,” the outlet reported Melgoza’s cousin Alice Alvarez said.

Original Article