Jury Begins Weighing Fate of Accused Killer of 3

Jury deliberations began Thursday in the murder trial of Ronaldo Ayala, one of three men accused of killing three other men in execution-style slayings in 1985 in a Southeast San Diego garage.

Ayala, 37, of San Diego, could face the death penalty if jurors convict him of first-degree murder with special-circumstances allegations.

The attorneys presented their closing arguments Wednesday and Thursday, and the jury deliberated for half a day Thursday before recessing until Tuesday.

Ayala is also accused of trying to kill the principal witness against him, Pedro (Pete) Castillo, 42, who survived the April 26, 1985, drug-related killings that took the lives of his friends.


Killed were Ernesto (Cha Cho) Mendez Dominguez, 30; his brother-in-law Marco Zamora-Villa, 31; and Jose (Cucuy) Luis Rositas, 24. All had their hands tied behind their backs and their mouths gagged with duct tape in the Chavas Radiator Shop on South 43rd Street.

After Ayala’s trial is finished, his brother, Hector Ayala, 36, will go on trial for the same murders. A third co-defendant, Joseph Moreno, 49, will stand trial after Hector Ayala is tried.

The defense focused on Castillo’s credibility.

Defense attorney Elisabeth Semel told jurors Castillo lied in his testimony in the past and continued to lie during the trial.


Castillo first denied that two victims had dealt heroin out of the garage, but later admitted in the trial that he had lied about that to spare the reputations of the men.

Castillo testified that he was in the garage when Hector Ayala arrived, pointing a gun at him. He said he was led into an office, where he saw all three victims with their hands tied behind their backs.

He said Ronaldo Ayala was present and that the older Ayala brother demanded $10,000 in cash from the victims or “someone is going to die tonight.”

Castillo said he told the men he had money in his tow truck. He was let outside to get it but began running. He said Ronaldo Ayala then shot him in the back. Shortly afterward, he heard six more shots inside the garage.