Five of the six men accused of torturing and murdering a man over a drug debt more than two years ago were found guilty of first-degree murder and at least one special allegation Tuesday afternoon, meaning they face life in prison.
Ramon David Maldonado, 39, David Murillo Maldonado, 57, Santos Manuel Sauceda, 35, Reyes Gonzales Jr., 44, Jason Michael Castillo, 31, and Anthony Jesus Solis, 30, were accused of luring Anthony Ibarra, 28, to a house on West Donovan Road on March 17, 2013, before beating him and stabbing him to death.
Ibarra's body was found two days later in a U-Haul truck in Orcutt.
All but Solis were convicted of the murder. A mistrial was declared in the case against him. Later in the afternoon, Solis pleaded guilty to kidnapping and admitted to a gang enhancement in order to avoid being retried.
While the defendants showed little emotion as the verdicts were read, their family members audibly cried in the courtroom.
"I'm thrilled that the jury saw the truth and that the victim and his family will finally have justice," Senior Deputy District Attorney Ann Bramsen said afterward.
The jury also found that special allegations of murder in the commission of a kidnapping were true for all five. This means that their mandatory minimum sentence is life in prison without the possibility of parole.
An allegation of murder with the infliction of torture was also found to be true in the case of Ramon Maldonado.
Other special allegations against all defendants and two counts of dissuading a witness by force or fear against Ramon Maldonado were dismissed because the jury could not reach a conclusion.
Motions for a new trial will be heard May 22 in Department 6 of Santa Maria Court. Defense attorneys said that they would focus on the time of Ibarra's death and the credibility of prosecution witnesses.
"Some evidence was admitted that should not have been admitted," said Adrian Andrade, who represented Castillo, alleged by the prosecution to have delivered that fatal stab wound to Ibarra's neck with a screwdriver.
The defense acknowledged that all of the defendants were in the house but said that none were there when Ibarra died, which the defense claimed was in the early morning hours of March 18.
Throughout the trial, the defense asserted that three prosecution witnesses were untrustworthy and played a greater role in the crime than they admitted to, and asked the jury to disregard some or all of their testimony.
One witness, Robert Stan Sosa, was originally charged with murder in the case before pleading guilty to kidnapping with a gang enhancement last year. He is scheduled to be sentenced to 15 years in prison on June 11. Sosa is Gonzales' younger brother.
The other two witnesses that the defense cast doubt on are John Doe and Jane Doe, a brother and sister who lived in the house where the murder took place. The pair are now in the California Witness Relocation and Assistance Program.
"I certainly didn't find (John Doe), (Jane Doe) or Robert Sosa credible in any way and it's disappointing that (the jury) believed them," said Addison Steele, who represented Solis.
The jury informed Superior Court Judge Rick Brown on Tuesday morning that they had reached a verdict on five of the defendants and could not reach one on the sixth, later revealed to be Solis.
After further deliberation, the jurors said that they would not be able to come to a unanimous decision on Solis, with eight jurors voting guilty and four voting not guilty.
Solis will be sentenced for kidnapping July 31. The additional sentence for the gang enhancement was waived.
Solis will serve at least 85 percent of a nine-year sentence, two years of which he has already served in Santa Barbara County Jail while awaiting trial, meaning he will serve a little more than five-and-a-half years in state prison.
His attorney said that while he was prepared to retry the case, he understood why Solis would plead.
"It's difficult for somebody to not settle for nine years when they're looking at life without parole," Steele said.
If motions for a new trial are not upheld, the court will proceed with sentencing for the five convicted of murder.
Five others who were arrested following the murder, including Sosa, pleaded to lesser charges before the trial began.
"This investigation and prosecution shows that the District Attorney's Office and law enforcement will not tolerate gang violence in our community," said Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley.