Two brothers who killed a California groom on his wedding day are convicted of murder

A jury found two California brothers who crashed a wedding reception and later killed the groom guilty of second-degree murder, prosecutors announced Wednesday.

The guilty verdict comes nearly two years after the fatal scuffle in the early morning of Dec. 15, 2019. That day, Rony and Josue Castaneda appeared uninvited at the family residence-held reception of newlywed couple Joe and Esther Melgoza.

Prosecutors believe the brothers lived nearby and overheard the celebration that included a mariachi band. Guests saw the pair dancing and socializing at the event, authorities said.

Image: A father was brutally murdered on his wedding day and his family says it happened during the reception as he tried to protect his guests.
Joe and Esther Melgoza.KNBC

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 pair antagonized Melgoza behind the family’s home, telling him to jump the fence to their side, prosecutors said.

“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 took a bat from one of the Castaneda brothers, who then fled to an unrelated nearby home. Melgoza pursued them into the yard. Minutes later, the brothers were seen jumping the fence of another unrelated house with one 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.

Josue Castaneda denied being in attendance at the celebration. However, upon the brothers’ arrest, a photobooth picture was retrieved from his front pocket showing him, his brother, and a female guest from the reception.

The brothers are scheduled to be sentenced on March 13, 2023. Lawyers for the brothers could not be immediately identified.

“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,” said Jason Anderson, the San Bernardino District Attorney.

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