Two men were found guilty and another was acquitted in the fatal shooting of Chaz Bettencourt in a 2010 homicide case outside the AM-PM minimarket in Riverbank.
Turlock Diaz was found guilty by a jury of first-degree murder and attempted carjacking in the shooting death, the verdict returned on Monday, Oct 28. The following day the jury found Daniel Pantoja guilty of first-degree murder and attempted carjacking.
The other suspect, Jah-Kari Phyall, also 18, was acquitted of all charges against him.
On Aug. 5, 2010, Bettencourt and a friend, David Gomez, drove to the AM-PM minimarket on the southwest corner of Oakdale and Patterson roads and were confronted by three suspects in the parking lot. According to the investigation, the suspects were attempting to carjack the men’s vehicle.
Gomez went back into the store to have the clerk call 911. He then heard several shots ring out in the parking lot. He ran back outside to find Bettencourt suffering from multiple gunshot wounds and the suspects fleeing on foot.
Bettencourt was later transported to Doctors Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
The case was broken when investigators retrieved a store video from the nearby Star Market that showed the three suspects lingering inside the store before purchasing energy drinks and chips. The video showed clothing similar to the provided suspect description from the shooting and also showed their faces. The surveillance tape revealed that when in the store, two of the suspects picked up a pack of cigars and set them back on the shelf. Investigators retrieved the cigar pack, processed it for latent prints, which identified Diaz and Pantoja.
Diaz and Pantoja were arrested more than a month after the crime in Shasta County, taken into custody on Sept.13, 2010.
Prosecutor Thomas Brennan claimed the crimes were carried out on behalf of the Norteno criminal street gang.
During closing arguments on Oct. 24, defense attorney Frank Carson told the jury that the prosecution’s “star witness,” Gomez, embellished his story about the fatal shooting during the carjacking. The claimed discrepancy was over preliminary hearing testimony where Gomez identified Pantoja as the gunman. In the trial Gomez testified that Diaz had the gun.
Pantoja faces up to 25 years to life in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced Friday, Nov. 8.
Diaz was 14 when the shooting occurred in August 2010. He faces up to 50 years to life in prison.