SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY, Calif. - The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office announced brothers Rony and Josue Castaneda were found guilty of second-degree murder in the gruesome 2019 beating death of Joe Melgoza on his wedding night in Chino.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Groom beaten to death on wedding night in Chino
Melgoza was celebrating with his new bride Esther at a backyard wedding reception at a home in the 13300 block of Oaks Avenue during the early morning hours of Dec. 15, 2019 when the Castaneda brothers crashed the party uninvited, according to authorities.
(Chino Police Department)
Investigators said the Castaneda brothers did not have any connection to the wedding party but decided to crash it anyway since they lived nearby and heard the festivities going on.
"At the reception, the brothers were seen socializing, dancing and taking photos with female guests," authorities said.
Witnesses reported that the party crashers were asked to leave the party. But at the end of the reception, they returned armed with baseball bats, prompting the altercation.
According to authorities, the brothers used a trail behind the house where the reception was being held and stood in the dark behind a fence, making antagonizing comments to Melgoza, telling him 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. 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," investigators said.
The brothers were seen jumping the fence of the home with a bat, which was never recovered.
Melgoza was found in the yard where the brothers were last seen. His cause of death was ruled to be blunt force trauma to the head. "He died within minutes," officials said.
Joe Melgoza (GoFundMe)
According to his family members, Melgoza was trying to protect his family from the men when he was brutally beaten.
That evening, detectives served a search warrant and arrested the Castaneda brothers in connection with the murder. The pair were arrested at their residence, in the 5800 block of Chino Avenue, only a few blocks from where the reception was being held.
Josue Castaneda denied attending the reception, however upon their arrest, a photobooth photo of both brothers with a woman at the reception was found in his front pocket. Investigators said Snapchat information also aided in identifying the pair.
The Castaneda brothers were also convicted of assault with a deadly weapon for injuries to the bride’s brother, Juan Bustamonte.
Their sentencing is scheduled for March 13 in Rancho Cucamonga.