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Crime News Murders

Two Brothers Convicted Of Murdering Groom After Crashing His Wedding In California

The horror unfolded after Rony and Josue Castaneda crashed the wedding reception of Joe Melgoza and his bride Esther Melgoza in Chino on Dec. 14, 2019, then returned in the early morning of Dec. 15 with baseball bats.

By Gina Salamone
Killer Motive: What Drives People To Kill?

Two brothers were found guilty of second-degree murder in the brutal beating death of a groom after his own wedding in Southern California more than three years ago. 

The horror unfolded after Rony and Josue Castaneda crashed the wedding reception of Joe Melgoza and his bride Esther Melgoza in Chino on Dec. 14, 2019, then returned in the early morning hours of Dec. 15, when the violence occurred, according to the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office.

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The jury also found the Castaneda siblings guilty of assault with a deadly weapon for injuring the bride's brother, Juan Bustamonte, the DA's office announced Tuesday. Melgoza's cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head after the brothers attacked with baseball bats, and he died within minutes of the blows. He was 30.

Authorities found no connection between the brothers and the wedding party, and suggested they heard the reception going on at a residence because they lived nearby, and then showed up uninvited to the bash, which boasted a DJ, dance floor, bar, mariachi band and photo booth.

Police handouts of Rony and Josue Ramirez

The siblings mingled, danced and posed for pictures with female guests at the reception before leaving, according to the DA's office. 

After the party, the pair returned via a trail behind the house that hosted the event, and brought baseball bats with them. The victim and his family members were not aware the brothers were armed with the bats, the DA's office states.

The brothers antagonized the groom from behind a fence, inciting Melgoza to jump over it, according to a release from the DA's office. After the groom and other family members of the newlyweds did, the Castaneda brothers attacked them by punching them and beating them with bats. 

One of the attackers ran into a home unrelated to the reception, and lost a bat to one of the family members of the newly married couple. Melgoza followed them, running into this yard without a weapon. Minutes later, according to the DA's office, the brothers were seen hopping the fence out of that yard with just one bat. 

When the Chino Police Department arrived, they tended to a hurt family member before finding Melgoza dead in the nearby yard where the Castaneda brothers were last seen before jumping over a fence.

Andy Velasquez, Melgoza's brother and the best man at his wedding, told Oxygen.com days after the attack that those involved in the wedding didn’t immediately realize that the Castaneda brothers shouldn't have been there, saying they were seen blending in with the invited guests. 

“They were at the bar with us,” Velasquez said at the time. "Because it was such a big party and it was two big families, we just assumed that somebody knew them, because they were right there among us."

Prior Oxygen.com reporting also states that some of the real wedding guests had asked the brothers to leave at one point, according to Velasquez. The siblings left at the time, but later returned with the bats after most of the guests had left.

Josue told authorities he did not attend the reception, but after the arrest, a photobooth picture found in his pocket showed the Castaneda brothers with one of the female guests from the reception. Police also used info found on the Snapchat app to identify the siblings.

“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," San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson said in a statement. "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."

The Castaneda brothers are due in court on March 13 for sentencing.

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