Brothers convicted of murdering groom hours after crashing California wedding reception
(KTLA) – Two brothers have been convicted of murder and assault after they attacked the groom and other attendees at a 2019 wedding reception in California.
Rony and Josue Castaneda, 31 and 22, respectively, are to be sentenced for second-degree murder in the death of Joe Melgoza, as well as assault with a deadly weapon for injuring Juan Bustamonte, the bride’s brother, with baseball bats, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
In the early hours of Dec. 15, 2019, after Joe and Esther Melgoza had been married, the Castaneda brothers crashed the couple’s wedding reception at a family residence in Chino.
The brothers, who lived near the reception site, showed up uninvited and were seen “socializing, dancing and taking photos with female guests,” the release said.
The Castanedas ultimately left when the reception ended, but returned via a trail behind the house where they waited with baseball bats, according to the district attorney. They then provoked Melgoza and some of his family members to jump over the fence, at which point they hit the group with bats.
A relative was able to disarm one of the Castaneda brothers, after which they ran off to a nearby home. An “unarmed” Melgoza pursued, the district attorney’s office wrote. Minutes later, the brothers were seen leaving that house with a bat, and Melgoza was discovered dead in the yard, having suffered blunt-force trauma to the head. He was 30 years old.
Police were able to tie the Castaneda brothers to the reception after finding a photo of them and a female wedding guest, taken at the reception’s photo booth, in Josue Castaneda’s pocket. Social media posts also linked them to the scene, the Chino police said.
Speaking with Nexstar’s KTLA in 2019, a cousin of the widowed bride remembered Melgoza as being nervous ahead of the reception, but only because he was self-conscious about his dancing.
“We were here setting up and he was saying, ‘Oh I’m nervous, the only thing I’m nervous about is dancing because I’m not a good dancer,’ but he danced the whole night away,” Jessica Bustamante said.
Melgoza’s family, too, had set up a GoFundMe to raise money for his funeral, and for his daughter. The fundraiser ultimately garnered more than $41,000 in donations.
In the news release announcing the Castanedas’ conviction, San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson extended his condolences to Melgoza’s family.
“Although this conviction can never undo the pain caused by two individuals’ actions, I hope it brings a measure of closure to the wife and loved ones of Joe Melgoza,” Anderson said.
Both defendants are scheduled to appear for sentencing on March 13 at Rancho Cucamonga Superior Courthouse.