Sonoma County jurors on Friday convicted two men of murdering another man during a drug rip-off outside a Santa Rosa meat shop, setting them up for life in prison without parole.
After a nearly month-long trial, jurors found Alberto Lopez-Barraza, 33 of Hayward and Jose Carraballa Mejias, 54 of Santa Rosa, guilty in the slaying of Jose Manuel de Jesus, 33, also of Santa Rosa.
They were the first of four original defendants to be tried in the October 2011 killing outside Carniceria Contreras on Todd Road.
The alleged shooter, Fernando Lopez Castillo, 25 of Santa Rosa, is expected to go before a jury early next year.
His brother, Juan Ramon Castillo, 28, also of Santa Rosa, pleaded guilty earlier this month to first-degree murder. He faces 25-to-life instead of life without parole.
Prosecutor Juliette Olson told the double-jury that the killing happened after De Jesus approached a vineyard-worker friend, Elias Alfaro, about helping him find someone to buy 10 pounds of marijuana.
De Jesus had financial problems and needed to send money to family in Mexico.
Alfaro arranged a meeting with Juan Ramon Castillo, who worked at the butcher shop at the southern city limits and was known to sell cars in its front parking lot.
When De Jesus showed up for the transaction, he was met by the four armed men who robbed him. As they were unloading packages of weed from his car, De Jesus was shot to death and left in the trunk.
Detectives were tipped to his alleged killers in part by looking through De Jesus's cell phone, which was left at the scene.
Using a tracking device, they determined he had called each of the Castillo brothers. Further investigation led to the other two men.
Lopez-Barraza and Mejias each had their own jury. Mejias' jury reached a verdict first. It was sealed until Friday afternoon when the second jury came back.
Mejias was convicted on all counts. Lopez-Barraza was acquitted on a conspiracy charge.
(You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)