By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Tree Planting Honors Murdered Youth
Family and friends of a young man killed because he wouldn't hand over some car keys planted a tree in his memory at a Riverbank city park on Thursday.

Chaz Bettencourt, 21, of Riverbank died of multiple gunshot wounds on Aug. 5 outside the Arco am/pm mini mart at Oakdale and Patterson roads when he was attacked by three teens.

Police have arrested Jah-Kari Phyall, 15, of Turlock as a suspect in the killing. But Daniel Pantoja, 18, of Riverbank and Turlock Diaz, 14, of Turlock are still at large.

"All he did was drive with a friend to the store late at night to get a soda and his life was taken. He would have turned 22 today. He was such a sweet kid," said Bettencourt's mother Michelle, as she led family members and city officials in planting an 18-foot sequoia redwood at Silva Park.

Her son had been through a rough time with drugs and alcohol addiction, but had been attending a Salvation Army rehabilitation class, getting "clean and sober," and hoped to attend college to become a counselor and help the same sort of people who took his life, she added.

The pretrial hearing for Phyall on charges of murder and attempted carjacking is set for today, Sept. 8, in Stanislaus County Superior Court.

Faced with a personal situation in which under age youths killed her son, Bettencourt said she has joined the Carrington Foundation in opposing a legislative bill (SB 399) brought by State Senator Leland Yee to allow modification of the sentence for murderers under 18 years after they have served at least 10 years.

Bettencourt introduced her husband Kreig, daughter Katelyn and Chaz' girlfriend Brenda Telles and named 11 other family members and friends as attending the ceremony.

City representatives included Director of Economic Development Tim Ogden and Public Works employee Tim Dowdy who, with another worker, did the spadework to raise the sequoia.

Dowdy said the city would consider adding a plaque near the tree later.

Michelle Bettencourt thanked am/pm market for letting her family hold a car wash fundraiser in its parking lot and the community members for their support.