Youth Pleads Guilty to 1st-Degree Murder

A 17-year-old Orange youth pleaded guilty Monday in Orange County Juvenile Court to the first-degree murder of an upholsterer gunned down in the doorway of his Tustin home in January.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Frank Fasel sentenced the teen to 25 years to life. He will be eligible for parole from the California Youth Authority sometime before his 25th birthday, police said.

The teen’s father and uncle still face murder charges in connection with the slaying of Fernando M. Lopez, 26, who was found shot in the head in the bushes outside the house he rented on San Juan Street.

According to police, the killing was initiated by the father, who was angered that his estranged wife was dating Lopez.


“He was unhappy with his estranged wife dating this man,” Tustin Police Investigator Tom Tarpley said. “The plan was to get him.”

Tarpley said he could not comment on the juvenile’s role in the slaying other than to say “he did plead guilty to premeditated first-degree murder.” Attorneys in the case were not available for comment Monday.

The father--Romelio Bustos Castaneda, 38--is still being sought on murder charges and is believed to have fled to Guerrero, Mexico, where the family has a ranch, Tarpley said.

The uncle, Cipenio Bustos Castaneda, 41, of Santa Ana, is being held on $250,000 bail in Orange County Jail on murder charges. A preliminary hearing is set for Nov. 28 in Municipal Court.

Romelio and his son were living in Washington state at the time of the murder, Tarpley said. They had come to Orange County for the Christmas holidays.

Police arrested the father and son as they prepared to board a plane for Washington the following day, Tarpley said, but did not have enough evidence against Romelio at the time to charge him.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Romelio Castaneda is asked to call Tarpley at (714) 573-3247.