CHINO, Calif. (KABC) -- Two brothers who murdered a newlywed groom at his reception in Chino were sentenced Friday to a minimum of at least 18 years behind bars.
Rony and Josue Castaneda were found guilty last month in the brutal beating of Joe Melgoza on Dec. 15, 2019 just hours after he had gotten married.
The sentencing handed down Friday included a minimum three years for assault with a deadly weapon, for injuries to the bride's mother, and 15 years-to-life for second-degree murder of the groom. The brothers have already served nearly three years since their arrest the day of the attack. They would be eligible for parole in 15 years.
Joe and Esther Melgoza were married on Dec. 14, 2019. The groom was celebrating his wedding hours before the violent incident occurred in the early morning hours of Dec. 15, at a family home where the reception included a mariachi band, a photo booth, bar, DJ and dance floor, investigators said.
"Although the Casteneda brothers did not have any apparent connection to the wedding party, they lived nearby and likely heard the festivities and went to the reception, uninvited," the DA's statement said. "At the reception, the brothers were seen socializing, dancing and taking photos with female guests."
The brothers left but later returned, unbeknownst to Melgoza and his family, armed with baseball bats, according to prosecutors.
"When the Castaneda brothers returned, they did so on a trail behind the house where the reception was held," the press release said. "Standing in the dark behind a fence they made antagonizing statements to Melgoza to jump over the fence to their side. Once Melgoza and his family jumped the fence, the brothers began hitting them all with bats and fists."
A family member was able to take a bat from one of the Castaneda brothers, who ran into a nearby home. Melgoza, who was unarmed, followed them.
Minutes later, authorities said, the defendants were seen hopping a fence out of the unrelated residence with a single bat, which was never found.
Chino police officers responded to the scene and found Melgoza dead in the yard where the Castaneda brothers were last seen. Melgoza's official cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma to the head, and he died within minutes, officials said.
Although Josue Castaneda denied attending the reception, after the arrests a photo-booth picture of both brothers with one of the female guests from the reception was found in his front pocket.
Snapchat information also helped Chino police in identifying the two assailants.
"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," San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson said in a statement.