2 wedding crashers are accused of killing a California groom outside his own reception
Paul P. Murphy and Stella Chan, CNN
(CNN) — Two brothers have been charged with murder for allegedly killing a groom outside his own wedding reception, according to police in Chino, California.
Rony Aristides Castaneda Ramirez, 28, and Josue Daniel Castaneda Ramirez, 19, are accused of killing Joseph Melgoza and assaulting two men on Sunday, according to police.
In a news release, police said Melgoza suffered blunt-force trauma to the head, but neither the news release nor the complaint from the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office specifies whether a weapon was used. The complaint says the other men, Jose Mancera and Juan Bustamante, were attacked with baseball bats.
The Ramirez brothers are each charged with murder and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon. They were scheduled to have their first court hearing Tuesday afternoon. CNN has not yet been able to identify an attorney for the suspects to provide comment.
On Saturday, hours before being beaten, Melgoza, 30, had married Esther Bustamante.
Melgoza’s daughter, Lilly, had served as their ring bearer during the ceremony.
“It was the happiest day of my life,” she said.
The weather was great for their wedding last Saturday. The temperature was in the mid-60s and there were only a few clouds in the sky.
“Everyone was so happy,” Andy Velasquez, Melgoza’s brother, told CNN. “After the church, we went to the house (for the reception). We ate, celebrated, cheered. Everything was perfect.”
Family says suspects were not invited
Velasquez remembers seeing the Ramirez brothers at the reception.
“We didn’t think much of it because there was so many people there we didn’t know,” he said. “It was so late the only people left were very close family. So, I assumed someone knew them.”
Police say there is no known relationship between the brothers and the groom.
Velasquez says it was late when someone confronted the Ramirez brothers, and they left the reception. After the party ended, they returned, saying one of them forgot his phone, Velasquez said.
A fight broke out in the back alley behind the house where the reception was being held.
Authorities say the Ramirez brothers attacked Melgoza there; family members tell CNN the attackers used baseball bats.
“It was pitch black and they (Melgoza and the other two men) didn’t see the bats,” Velasquez said.
Bustamante remembers calling 9-1-1 after hearing her mom call for help. After she did, she ran as fast as she could toward the commotion in the alley. She said she saw her brother, who was injured in the attack, but no one could find her husband.
When officers arrived, Esther Bustamante said, Melgoza was still missing.
“I ran and screamed his name hoping he would answer,” she said. “It was so dark.”
A news release from the police said officers responded to a call on Oaks Avenue about a fight around 2:20 a.m. Sunday and found “a large crowd from a nearby party and two victims of battery, who sustained minor injuries.”
Witnesses said another possible victim was missing and officers searched and found Melgoza in the rear yard of a residence on 17th Street, the release said.
“They immediately put up yellow [tape] saying it was a crime scene,” Esther Bustamante told CNN. “Then I knew the worst was coming.”
Melgoza was transported to Chino Valley Medical Center, where he later died, police said.
On Sunday afternoon, police served a search warrant at a residence on Chino Avenue and arrested the Ramirez brothers, police said.
Groom remembered for loving his family, friends
Bustamante remembers her husband never liked using the word goodbye.
“It was ‘I’ll see you later,'” she said. “He never left home without giving us a see you later kiss.”
He’s remembered for being the best father to his daughter, Lilly; his wife remembers he made sure she had everything. “He cared so much about his family and friends,” Esther Bustamante told CNN. “He would do anything for his loved ones.”
Velasquez, his younger brother, says Melgoza helped raise him and his other siblings; he became his role model in life.
“It was my biggest honor in life being his little brother,” Velasquez said. “He helped raise all four of us siblings.”
The family is currently trying to raise funds on GoFundMe to pay for Melgoza’s funeral services.