They called it the "Alibi," a house in Del Paso Heights the residents turned into a nightclub when the bars closed and party people looked for a place to go.
They promoted it through text messages and fliers, and a year ago April 17 as many as 100 people had jammed the place on Fig Street until gunfire broke out as Saturday night turned into Sunday morning.
The cops found one man dead and four people injured. On Monday, in Sacramento Superior Court, the shooter paid the price.
After two days of deliberations, a jury returned a second-degree murder verdict on Michael Simlee Walton, 25, in the killing of Christopher Michael Milas, 34. Authorities said Milas had nothing to do with the disagreement that sparked what the police described as indiscriminate gunfire.
"He was an awesome, awesome young man," said Milas' aunt, Brenda Pruitt, who sat in the courtroom when the jury came back with its verdict. "From what I understand, he was out with two different friends that night and one of the friends said, 'I know about this after-hours party,' and that's how he ended up there.
"I just wish, whoever said that, I just wish (Milas) didn't know who that person was."
Her nephew was a 12-year Comcast employee who was laid off just a few days before the party, Pruitt said. A lifelong Sacramento area resident, Milas was the only son of a single mom who Pruitt said was too distraught to attend the trial. Milas had no criminal record, according to court online records.
"He loved people," Pruitt said. "He had a ton of friends. His funeral was standing-room-only. It was amazing how many people came out and showed so much love for him. Christopher knew no enemies."
According to his aunt, Milas stood in a doorway talking to a friend when the 3:30 a.m. shooting erupted in the the garage area of the party house. Two bullets from Walton's stolen 9mm semi-automatic handgun purchased for $400 in a darkened parking lot, the defendant testified struck Milas. The fatal one penetrated his upper abdomen and left renal artery, authorities said.
Deputy District Attorney Eric Kindall told jurors in his closing arguments Thursday that Walton had attended several Fig Street after-hours events before the party when Milas was killed.
Walton made a bad impression in his previous trips to Alibi, Kindall said. He cut in line. He tried to sneak in booze.
The night of the shooting, Walton interjected himself into a woman's conversation, according to the prosecutor. She didn't appreciate it, and they argued. She went to the party hosts and asked them to kick Walton out.
It got rough when the bouncer and his backups pressed Walton to leave. Fists flew first and then the bullets, after the bouncer wrapped Walton into a bear hug.
Somehow, the prosecutor told the jury, Walton sneaked a handgun into the party past the front-door security.
"There's a reason he did not back down," Kindall told the jury. "He had a little something they didn't know about."
Walton testified he thought his life was in danger when the bouncer and others got physical with him. He said he may have even seen a knife.
In his closing arguments, Kindall told the jury to disregard Walton's claim of self-defense.
The first thing out of Walton's mouth when detectives questioned him was that somebody else did it, Kindall said. When investigators told him they'd already found his gun, he amended his story to say he was crazy at the time of the shooting, according to the prosecutor.
Defense attorney Russell W. Miller stood by his client's claim of self-defense.
"Obviously, the jury rejected that," Miller said after the verdict. "But I believe that we presented enough evidence that would have shown that the people in the garage were attacking my client."
Some partygoers were "admittedly stoned on drugs," including Ecstasy, "and yet they come in here with a variety of crystal-clear memories," Miller said. "We showed inconsistencies in everybody's testimony, except the officers'. The only consistency was that my client was attacked before the weapon was fired."
Besides the second-degree murder count, the jury found Walton guilty of one count of attempted murder and three counts of assault with a semiautomatic firearm.
The jury also convicted him on a sixth of being a convicted felon with a firearm and a seventh of receiving stolen property the gun, which had been stolen from a man's home.
Judge Greta Curtis Fall scheduled Walton's sentencing for Oct. 5.
Editor's note: On Aug. 28, a paragraph in this story was changed to reflect that Walton (not Milas) sneaked a handgun into the party past the front-door security.