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Brothers who crashed a wedding reception are convicted of beating the groom to death

March 1, 2023 Updated Wed., March 1, 2023 at 9:06 p.m.

Rony Castaneda Ramirez, left, and Josue Castaneda Ramirez were arrested on suspicion of murder on Sunday, police say.  (Chino Police Department/Chino Police Department/TNS)
Rony Castaneda Ramirez, left, and Josue Castaneda Ramirez were arrested on suspicion of murder on Sunday, police say. (Chino Police Department/Chino Police Department/TNS)
By Hannah Fry Los Angeles Times Los Angeles Times

Two brothers who crashed a wedding reception and beat the groom to death in Chino, California, in 2019 were convicted in February of second-degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon, prosecutors announced Tuesday.

San Bernardino County prosecutors said Rony Castaneda, 31, and Josue Castaneda, 22, didn’t know the groom or his wife but lived nearby and likely decided to crash the couple’s reception after they heard the party unfolding at a home in Chino on Dec. 14, 2019.

Earlier that day, 30-year-old Joe Melgoza and Esther were married. Their reception at the Chino home included a mariachi band, a photo booth, bar, DJ and dancing. Guests later told authorities the brothers were socializing, dancing and taking photos with female guests at the reception.

The brothers left the party at the end of the night but later returned armed with baseball bats, prosecutors said.

“Standing in the dark behind a fence they made antagonizing statements to Melgoza to jump over the fence to their side. Once Melgoza and his family jumped the fence, the brothers began hitting them all with bats and fists,” prosecutors wrote in a news release.

A family member pulled a bat away from one of the brothers who then ran to a nearby home. Melgoza, who was unarmed, followed them. Authorities later found him dead in the yard, suffering from blunt force trauma to the head. The bride’s brother was also injured in the attack, prosecutors said.

Snapchat, as well as a photo-booth picture police found in Josue Castaneda’s pocket, showed the brothers with a woman who attended the reception and helped link the men to the attack, authorities said. It is not clear what provoked the violence.

Attorneys for the two men could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday. The brothers are expected to be sentenced on March 13.

San Bernardino County Disrict Attorney Jason Anderson commended his colleagues’ “determination to seek justice for a family who endured such unimaginable grief during a time that should be filled love and happiness.”

“Although this conviction can never undo the pain caused by two individuals’ actions,” he said, “I hope it brings a measure of closure to the wife and loved ones of Joe Melgoza.”

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