A Temecula resident who fatally stabbed a 19-year-old man during a dispute in a store parking lot stemming from road rage was convicted Monday of second-degree murder.

A Murrieta jury deliberated two days before finding 41-year-old James Beckham Fortney guilty of the 2017 slaying of Kevin James Rodriguez.

Along with the murder count, jurors convicted Fortney of making criminal threats and a sentence-enhancing allegation of using a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony.

The defendant is facing 20 years to life in state prison when he’s sentenced by Riverside County Superior Court Judge Charles Campbell on Nov. 19 at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta.

Fortney had been free on $250,000 bail, but Campbell revoked the bond and ordered the defendant jailed at the Byrd Detention Center.

According to Deputy District Attorney Dan DeLimon, Fortney and the victim crossed paths for the first and last time on the afternoon of Nov. 29, 2017, in the Walmart parking lot at 32225 Temecula Parkway.

Rodriguez and his girlfriend, identified in court documents only as “J.C.,” were heading to the Walmart with her sister when they encountered Fortney and his wife in a black Land Rover on Temecula Parkway. DeLimon said the 6-foot-3, 270-pound defendant was incensed with an elderly motorist’s driving and caught the victims’ attention as he blared the SUV’s horn while yelling out the window.

Fortney and his wife reached the Walmart just ahead of Rodriguez’s girlfriend, but as she pulled into an entrance, the Land Rover met her from the opposite direction, and the young woman drove in front of the defendant as he was initiating his turn, according to the prosecutor.

DeLimon alleged that Fortney tailgated the woman in an act of intimidation until each of them went to their respective spaces.

Rodriguez was upset by the behavior and told the women that he wanted a word with Fortney before going into the store, according to the prosecution. DeLimon said Fortney’s wife headed into the Walmart, but the defendant lingered in front of the outlet with a small bulldog on a leash, watching his Land Rover intently.

When he spotted Rodriguez walking toward the SUV, Fortney “stormed” toward the young man, all but dragging his dog behind him and holding his camera phone in front of him to record the ensuing encounter, according to the prosecution.

Rodriguez immediately attempted to break off contact, DeLimon said.

“Fortney was following Rodriguez aggressively from behind … and shoved the camera near Rodriguez’s face,” cursing the young man, the prosecutor said.

When J.C. tried to pull out of her parking stall and pick up Rodriguez in an attempt to escape, Fortney blocked her path, DeLimon said.

As Rodriguez tried to walk around the bearded, much bigger man, Fortney grabbed the victim by the throat and nearly lifted him off of the ground. Rodriguez threw a punch, striking Fortney in the chin, at which point the defendant let him go, and Rodriguez stepped back five feet to recover his composure, according to the prosecutor’s trial brief.

“Fortney drew a large-framed six-inch tactical folding knife,” DeLimon wrote. “Giving Rodriguez no warning whatsoever, Fortney then walked toward Rodriguez, lunged and thrust his knife forward in a reaching style stabbing motion. Fortney moved so fast that it appeared … he had some kind of training. Rodriguez tried to backpedal, but he was unable to avoid the swift targeted strike.”

The blade pierced the young man’s heart. He died at the scene minutes later.

When his girlfriend attempted to come to thee mortally wounded man’s aid, Fortney shouted, “You’re next!” prompting her to jump back into her vehicle in fear of her life, according to DeLimon.

Fortney was arrested by deputies without a struggle and gave alternating accounts of what transpired, making himself out to be the victim, using the knife in self-defense, DeLimon said. However, during an hours-long interview, Fortney ultimately acknowledged that Rodriguez never initiated physical contact, according to the prosecutor.

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