It was an emotional day in court on Christmas Eve for the family of a groom who was murdered just hours after his wedding earlier this month.
Prosecutors say two brothers beat 30-year-old Joe Melgoza to death right after his wedding reception in Chino on Dec. 15.
Rony Castaneda Ramirez, 28, and his brother, Josue Castaneda Ramirez, 24, were reportedly asked to leave the reception party, as it was over, but instead returned with baseball bats and assaulted several people, leaving Melgoza with a fatal injury to his head. The two did not know Melgoza and were not invited to the wedding.
Local news from across Southern California
He died later at a hospital, leaving behind an 11-year-old daughter and his new wife.
When the two appeared in court in Rancho Cucamonga Tuesday, some of Melgoza’s family was there. The sight of the two, who the family said were smiling during their appearance, was upsetting to the family, who later spoke about their experience outside the courthouse.
"Life will never be the same,” said Andy Velasquez, Melgoza’s brother. The victim’s mother cried and was visibly upset, describing her heartache in Spanish.
NBC4 was not allowed inside the courtroom, but Melgoza’s family related that there were some fireworks between them and the accused attackers.
"It's just frustrating man,” Velasquez said. “We see those cowards in there and they have a little smile on their face like, ‘this is a joke to us.’"
Velasquez said he became furious as he sat in court and instead of showing remorse, the brothers kept smiling. At one point, he said he couldn’t take it anymore.
"I tried to fight with all my power not to do anything but I had to get my words in."
Witnesses said the brothers had sneaked into the wedding reception at his family home in Chino and that around 2 a.m., the Castanedas were told to leave because the party was over. Instead, witnesses said the brothers went to their nearby home and came back to the party with bats.
They are accused of beating three people. Two of them suffered minor injuries but Melgoza was found about a block away in a yard and later died.
"Joe is forever gone and at the worst time, now we're stuck picking up the pieces and their family still has the shame to show their faces here knowing what their sons did,” Velasquez said. “It's a disgrace.”
The brothers have pleaded not guilty to murder.