The accused ringleader in the revenge killings of two teenagers in Yolo County was found guilty Tuesday of murdering and kidnapping both boys.
David Froste, 27, was charged with abducting and killing friends and classmates Enrique Rios and Elijah Moore in 2016 in separate instances weeks apart. Prosecutors said he targeted the boys for retribution after Moore allegedly stole a small quantity of marijuana from him. Froste targeted Rios because he believed the young man knew where Moore could be found.
After the first guilty verdict was read in the crowded courtroom, families of the victims erupted into cheers.
Alicia Moore, Elijah Moore’s mother, said “a weight off my shoulders was lifted when I heard the verdict.”
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Throughout the trial, Alicia Moore sat next to Lola Rios Gutierrez, Enrique Rios’s mother.
“The whole process has been extremely hard to go through,” said Rios Gutierrez. “I just feel like justice definitely has been served today.”
Prosecutors alleged Froste led a group of friends that included his younger brother Jonathan Froste, 21, Chandale Shannon, 21, and teenager Jesus Campos in committing the crimes.
Prosecutors at trial said Froste and his crew exacted “three ounces of revenge” — a reference to the amount of marijuana Moore stole from them during a hold-up in a Kentucky Fried Chicken parking lot in Woodland.
A livid Froste sought payback for the stick-up, witnesses testified. Prosecutors said he “wanted blood.” Rios was shot to death. Moore was bludgeoned and shot. Their bodies were burned and buried in a remote area near Knights Landing, according to testimony. Their remains have never been found.
Jury foreman Deedra Johnson said the “sticking points” of evidence for the jury were the testimonies of accomplices and co-conspirators, as well as “independent, first-hand” witness testimony.
“We worked damn hard to come up with the verdicts,” she said. “It was absolutely the right decision.”
Jonathan Froste accepted a plea deal for a second-degree murder charge and faces a potential 15 years-to-life prison sentence. Jesus Campos returns to court in January. Shannon’s mental competence to stand trial has been questioned and he is being evaluated.
The disappearances of Rios and Moore launched a months-long investigation by local and federal authorities. Froste’s lawyer, Yolo County supervising Public Defender Martha Sequeira, accused authorities at trial of rushing to arrest Froste to appease the teens’ frustrated families and squelch growing media scrutiny focused on how law enforcement handled the case.
Moore voiced anger during the investigation of the teens’ disappearance that authorities ignored leads, and criticized authorities’ suggestion that the teens had run away.
Froste now faces the possibility of life without parole, according to prosecuting Yolo County Deputy District Attorney Kyle Hasapes.
The sentencing hearing is set for Dec. 13 at 1:30 p.m. at the Yolo Superior Court House.