Jurors needed little time in finding that a man's stabbing death in Tahoe Park three years ago over a stolen PlayStation amounted to first-degree murder.
Jesus Gallegos' jury began deliberations Tuesday afternoon and wrapped up by midmorning Wednesday, with the conclusion that he willfully premeditated the killing of Triston Ashley Salladay.
Gallegos, now 23, armed himself with a knife when he visited Salladay in his upstairs apartment Feb. 14, 2010. Apparently angered over Salladay's accusation that a friend of Gallegos stole a video game console, the defendant launched an attack in which he stabbed the victim around 10 times.
Salladay's uncle said his family is happy with verdict.
"The jury saw what we believe, that this was a premeditated, planned attack on someone's own doorstep," Robert Salladay said. "It wasn't a fight or anything other than Jesus just going over there to kill Triston. So this is a resolution we thought was the most just, and we're happy the jury saw that."
Even though it took three years to get the case to trial, "we took faith that the system was working," Salladay said. "I took solace that we had support from law enforcement and the District Attorney's Office throughout the whole thing, that they cared about this case."
In his closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Eric Kindall called the attack on Triston Salladay "an ambush." Assistant Public Defender Amy Rogers, who represented Gallegos, called the knifing death "an act of frenzy," the result of someone who was "not thinking clearly." She asked the jury to return a voluntary manslaughter verdict.
One woman on the panel said the verdict was an easy one.
"Triston didn't even put up a fight," the 62-year-old juror said. "It was a sneak attack."
Kindall, in showing the jury pictures of the murder scene, pointed out a small amount of blood in the living room of Salladay's apartment, trailing to larger splashes on his doorstep.
Witnesses said they saw Salladay fall at the top of the stairway outside his door, only to have Gallegos lift him up and stab him again before the two of them tumbled down to the bottom, where the defendant then straddled the victim and thrust the knife into him some more.
Four adults and one little neighborhood girl witnessed the fatal stabbing in the 3500 block of 53rd Street.
Gallegos, who lived near Salladay in the Tahoe Park neighborhood, had initially pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity.
Rogers told the court just before the verdict that he was withdrawing the insanity plea.
"We reviewed the standard burden of proof and the evidence that would be presented, and he's wishing to drop it at this point," Rogers said.
Triston Salladay's death came nine years after he had been seriously wounded in a 2001 high school shooting in the San Diego County city of Santee. Two students were killed and 12 others besides Salladay were injured.
An electrician who was married and the stepfather of a 9-year-old girl at the time of his death, Salladay "really was a sweetheart, a happy-go-lucky young man," his uncle said.
"He had a future," Robert Salladay, a longtime California journalist, said after Wednesday's verdict. "And the family will always be devastated by his death."
Superior Court Judge Steve White scheduled Gallegos' sentencing for March 15. Gallegos is facing a term of 25 years to life in prison, plus added time for his use of the knife.