YUMA, Ariz. — A jury on Tuesday convicted an Arizona man accused in the
beating death of a Yuma man in a bizarre case of mistaken identity.
After three days of deliberations, the Yuma County jury found Manuel Bustamante
guilty of two counts of first-degree murder in the killing of 33-year-old Kendal
Smith, the Yuma Sun reported.
Jurors also convicted Bustamante of conspiracy to commit possession of narcotic
drugs for sale, among other charges.
Several family members who had attended the trial were visibly upset and cried
outside the courthouse after the verdicts were read.
Yuma County deputies say a group of men led by Bustamante beat Smith to death
with baseball bats in 2012 after accusing him of stealing drugs _ a claim that
turned out to be false.
According to testimony at trial, Bustamante’s girlfriend stole 40 pounds of
methamphetamine and a kilogram of heroin from a drug dealer a few months earlier
and later approached Bustamante to help her sell it, eventually forming a
partnership with him.
Bustamante and several members of his crew went to the Yuma apartment armed
with baseball bats that night because Bustamante’s girlfriend had given the
heroin to someone, and the men thought it was being kept there. Once at the
apartment, Bustamante and the others were confronted by Smith.
Sentencing is scheduled for next month. Bustamante faces life in prison.
Information from: The Sun, http://www.yumasun.com