A convicted felon who fatally stabbed a 43-year-old bicyclist during a confrontation in Menifee was convicted Monday of first-degree murder.
After three days of deliberations, a Murrieta jury found 50-year-old Ronny Joe Mitchell of Murrieta guilty of the murder count, as well as a sentence-enhancing weapon allegation, for the Oct. 4, 2015, slaying of Moses Almarez.
Riverside County Superior Judge Mark Mandio scheduled a sentencing hearing for Jan. 31 at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta. Mitchell is facing 26 years to life in state prison.
According to the prosecution, the defendant did not know Almarez but became enraged after the victim made a caustic remark to the son of a co-worker.
A trial brief prepared by Deputy District Attorney Sean Crandell stated that Mitchell had parked in front of the home of his co-worker, identified only as “Fred,” at the end of a workday on a construction site. The defendant did not live anywhere near the property in the 25500 block of Third Street, which prompted the co-worker to become concerned when he spotted Mitchell outside.
According to the brief, Fred was heading out to investigate when Almarez rode by on his bike and made a snide comment to the man’s adult son, Fred Jr., and his friend, Jerry, who were working on a car in the driveway.
Jerry asked Almarez whether he wanted to say anything to his face, and the victim stopped as if to physically challenge the young man, according to the prosecution’s narrative.
Fred Sr. called his son and Jerry back to the house before a fight erupted, but Crandell said Mitchell got out of his vehicle and approached Almarez, saying he would “save his life,” to which the victim replied, “You ain’t saving (expletive)!”
Mitchell then stabbed Almarez twice in the chest with a knife, penetrating more than five inches deep, puncturing the victim’s lungs, Crandell said. Before fleeing in his car, the defendant turned to the witnesses and threatened to harm them if they revealed his identity, according to the prosecutor.
Almarez managed to stagger a short distance before collapsing dead in the street.
Sheriff’s detectives confirmed that Mitchell was the assailant within a week and began searching for him. He was arrested without incident at his girlfriend’s San Dimas residence on Oct. 29, 2015.
An autopsy later revealed that Almarez had methamphetamine in his system at the time of his death. Crandell said the victim did not know Fred or the others, so the reason for his alleged hostility remains a mystery.
Mitchell, who’s being held without bail at the Byrd Detention Center, has prior convictions for dealing cocaine, assault with a deadly weapon and robbery, court records show.