BARSTOW • A 21-year-old Riverside man was convicted of murder Thursday in connection with the killing of a San Bernardino hip-hop artist whose body was found dumped near Barstow.
A jury deliberated for about 15 hours before finding Dudzai Prosper Pswatai guilty of murder, kidnapping and robbery charges related to the June 2008 killing of Robert Mastrangelo, 24. The jury heard closing arguments and began deliberating August 14.
Pswatai, who faced the same charges during an earlier trial, remained expressionless after the verdict was read to the courtroom.
Although the jury found Pswatai guilty on three charges, they declared him not guilty of solicitation to commit murder. Juror Brent Thibodeaux said the jury didn't feel there was enough evidence presented to prove the solicitation charge. Brent said the jury voted 12-0 in favor of not guilty on the charge.
Pswatai now faces up to 102 years and eight months to life and a minimum of 50 years and eight months to life in state prison. Jurors found that the crimes included special circumstances involving the use of a firearm which could add 25 years to life to each crime's sentencing limit. Pswatai will be sentenced Oct. 19 at the Barstow courthouse.
Mastrangelo's family was in attendance for each hearing related to his killing, but said the recent hearings were more stressful, but also more satisfying.
"It feels good and I'm happy with the verdict, but we're still missing Robert," said Mastrangelo's cousin Catherine Mastrangelo. "He was one of a kind, and they'll never know what was taken from us. We're going to go visit the crosses that we put up where he was found when we leave here. We stop at them each time we come to court and each time we leave."
Pswatai already stood trial for the killing, but the previous trial ended in a mistrial after jurors were unable to reach a consensus and deadlocked at 10-2 in April.
Pswatai's defense attorney Troy Padgett said he was disappointed in the result of the second case.
"This was a long, tough case," Padgett said. "It took a lot of effort. I think the biggest difference in the two cases was that (Jeffrey "Slutter" Berrouet) didn't testify in this trial."
Celina Sanchez, 21, and Berrouet, 23, were co-defendants in the Mastrangelo trial. Although Berrouet didn't testify in the second trial, Sanchez testified several times, according to Deputy District Attorney Shannon Faherty. Barstow Police Detective Keith Libby testified that Pswatai, Berrouet and Sanchez were roommates during a previous hearing.
Sanchez accepted a plea bargain and was of convicted of kidnapping. She has a sentencing hearing on Oct. 1 at the Barstow courthouse.
Berrouet pleaded guilty to murder as part of a plea deal and testified against Pswatai during his initial trial. However, Berrouet is currently attempting to withdraw his guilty plea and deal, according to Faherty. Berrouet has a hearing to withdraw the plea on Sept. 11 at the Joshua Tree courthouse.
Faherty didn't call Berrouet to testify in this trial because she found his testimony to be self serving and not completely factual, she said.