Man is acquitted in South L.A. killing linked to Craigslist ad


A 19-year-old accused of killing a man lured to a robbery by a Craigslist ad was acquitted by a Los Angeles jury on Friday afternoon.

Ryan Roth was cleared of one count of murder, one count of attempted murder and four counts of robbery. His attorney, Anthony Willoughby, said Roth had not even been at the scene of the crime.

The charges stem from the October 2013 killing of 41-year-old Rene Balbuena, who had driven to 92nd Street and Gramercy Place in South Los Angeles with his 15-year-old son, hoping for a deal on a smartphone.


Instead, they were ambushed by two armed teenagers who demanded their money. Balbuena was shot three times, in the neck and chest. His son was grazed by a bullet and survived.

Markel Thomas, the second man charged in the crime, had already taken a deal in which he pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and robbery in exchange for a 26-year prison sentence, according to Greg Risling, spokesman for the Los Angeles district attorney’s office. Thomas was 18 at the time of the killing.

Thomas lied to investigators about Roth being his accomplice during the botched robbery, Willoughby said. “He told them a story, and they just ran with it.”

Deputy Dist. Atty. Arthur Leahy, who prosecuted the case, declined to comment after the jury’s verdict.

Roth will remain in custody while prosecutors decide whether to retry him on two counts of robbery stemming from a separate incident in August 2013, Risling said. After three days of deliberation, the jury was deadlocked on those counts.

Twitter: @jackdolanLAT