Man convicted of killing cousin

March 5, 2009 12:45:29 PM PST
A Healdsburg man faces up to 50 years to life in prison for murdering his cousin nearly two years ago.

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Jose Gonzalez Mendez, 21, also known as Jose Miguel Mendez, was convicted Tuesday by a Sonoma County jury of fatally shooting 17-year-old Pedro Fernando Gonzalez Ruiz of Healdsburg, whose body was found June 17, 2007 along a driveway off Westside Road in Forestville.

The prosecution claimed Mendez shot his cousin four times because he was hitting on Mendez's girlfriend.

Defense attorney Walter Rubenstein argued during his summation that the defendant's cousin, Miguel Guzman, could have fatally shot Ruiz even though his client confessed to the killing.

Guzman pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact. Rubenstein said Guzman was with the defendant and Ruiz when they drove to a rural area to test-fire a gun they wanted to sell.

Rubenstein said there was bad blood between Ruiz and Mendez but that it stemmed from events that happened years prior to the fatal shooting.

Deputy District Attorney Charles Arden told the jury Guzman had no reason to shoot Ruiz. He said that in addition to Mendez's confession, Guzman testified that Mendez shot Ruiz.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Department said the cousins worked at Molsberry Market in Larkfield and that Mendez felt Ruiz was mistreating him, including by flirting with his girlfriend.

A resident in the 11000 block of Westside Road notified the sheriff's department about a body near a log pile. An autopsy determined Ruiz died within minutes of being shot in the head and chest.

Mendez faces 25 years to life for the murder and an additional 25 years for enhancements including discharging a gun and causing great bodily injury or death. He will be sentenced April 8.

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