A jury convicted a Campo man on Oct. 30 of two counts of second-degree murder and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in the deaths of his passengers on Buckman Springs Road.
Ryan Gary Renz, 26, was found guilty of all charges in the Jan. 25, 2017 deaths of his cousin, Johnny Ray Meyer Jr., 23, and Dillon Cody Wiltfong, 26, both of whom also lived in Campo.
The jury deliberated 4-5 hours before arriving at “a just verdict,” said Deputy District Attorney Laura Evans.
El Cajon Superior Court Judge Jeff Fraser set sentencing for Dec. 20. Renz remains in jail.
Evans said Renz faces a likely sentence of 30 years to life in prison. She said Renz was driving approximately 90 mph in Campo when he didn’t negotiate a curve and struck an oak tree.
Renz was driving Wiltfong’s vehicle, which rolled over several times. One person was thrown from the vehicle, which caught on fire around 6:45 p.m.
Evans said Renz knew the dangers of drinking and driving but “just didn’t care.” Evans said Renz was convicted of DUI in 2015, and he signed a page acknowledging that if he drove again while intoxicated and someone died, he could be charged with murder.
His attorney, Audrey Kyu, asked jurors to acquit Renz of murder, but conceded his guilt for vehicular manslaughter. She called the incident “a terrible tragedy,” but his actions didn’t rise to the level of murder charges.
Kyu said Renz and the victims were all drinking together that day and “Ryan drew the short straw” to drive the people home.
Opening statements and testimony began Oct. 17.
Man who killed vandal gets 25 years to life sentence
A La Mesa man who killed someone who was vandalizing his truck was sentenced on Oct. 29 to 25 years to life in state prison.
Christopher James Artale, 42, was convicted May 28 of second-degree murder in the Oct. 1, 2017 shooting death of Aldo Alfonso Prado, 35, of National City, outside Artale’s home in the 4400 block of Glen Street.
An eight-woman, four-man jury convicted Artale of second-degree murder after 6 and a half days of deliberations. His attorney, Richard Boesen, had argued for acquittal, saying it was self-defense.
El Cajon Superior Court Judge Patricia Cookson imposed 15 years to life for murder plus 10 years consecutively for Artale personally using a gun in a homicide.
Deputy District Attorney Valerie Ryan said Prado had slashed one of his tires with a boxcutter before Artale came outside. She said they had been friends in the past.
“He was running away when he was shot,” said Ryan. “Mr. Prado was shot from behind.”
Artale received credits of 759 days in jail. Cookson ordered Artale to pay $615 for funeral expenses.
Prado was rushed to a hospital and had surgery for a skull fracture. His family authorized removal of life support systems two days later and he passed away quietly, said Ryan.
Boesen had argued that Artale was fearful that Prado would go inside his home. Boesen said Prado furnished Artale with painkillers on other occasions.
Boesen said that when Prado saw Artale pull a gun, he said to him, “you’re not going to shoot me.” Boesen said Artale legally owned the firearm.
Artale had no prior record.
Source: East County Californian