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UPDATED: Rosas brothers convicted in murder case

Men facing life in prison for 2006 bludgeoning death

Posted: April 29, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 29, 2011 2:30 p.m.
 

UPDATED, Friday 2:30 p.m.: 
Christopher Rosas, 50, and Ralph Rosas, 48, were found guilty of first-degree murder by separate juries on Friday and Thursday, respectively. The two are convicted of killing Louis Alexander Campanelli, 55, at Mugsy's Bar, which Campanelli co-owned with one of the two brothers. Read more in Saturday's Signal.

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Original post, Friday, 1:55 a.m.:
SAN FERNANDO — The bludgeoned body of 55-year-old Louis Alexander Campanelli was found lying in a pool of blood behind the fledgling Canyon Country bar he co-owned on Feb. 26, 2006. Christopher Rosas, 50, and Ralph Rosas, 48, are on trial for murder for what authorities say was a dispute over ownership of the Canyon Country business.

Each has been charged with first-degree murder with a special circumstance of lying in wait for Campanelli’s death, and assault with a deadly weapon.

The evidence against both men, who are being tried together, was chronicled in Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman’s closing statements Thursday, when she summarized three weeks’ worth of testimony in both men’s cases.

The brothers’ fates are now in the hands of two San Fernando Valley Superior Court juries. Each could be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.

Evidence
DNA evidence tied the Rosases to the murder. Cynthia Wilson Rosas, charged as an accomplice to the killing, accepted a plea deal in exchange for her testimony.

The brothers’ friend Salvino Pilarski testified that Christopher Rosas asked him to burn his SUV in Val Verde.

Campanelli’s blood was later found on the driver-side seat cover of that SUV, Silverman said.

Six other witnesses testified that the Rosas brothers had boasted of the murder, and attempted to intimidate witnesses who might testify against them in court.

Money, Silverman told the jury, was the Rosas brothers’ motive for allegedly stabbing Campanelli to death, and then using a fire extinguisher to smash his skull.

Mugsy’s Bar
Silverman relayed the events that led to Campanelli’s murder:

Mugsy’s Bar opened in November 2005 in the Soledad Plaza Shopping Center. Campanelli and Christopher Rosas each invested $35,000 to open the bar. But by February 2006, the owners were already three months behind on their lease.

Ralph Rosas offered to buy Campanelli’s stake in the bar for $40,000 so the brothers could run Mugsy’s together. But Campanelli refused.

“They wanted to run the business together,” Silverman said. “They didn’t think Louis was doing a very good job, and they wanted to make some money. It’s one of the oldest motives in the book: greed.”

On the night of Feb. 25, the Rosas brothers allegedly ransacked the bar and smashed an ATM machine to make it look like Campanelli was killed during a robbery, said Det. Steve Lankford of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau. Lankford investigated the murder.

Cynthia Wilson Rosas, who had a sexual relationship with both brothers, went with the men to act as a lookout. Rosas testified that she watched surveillance video from an office in the bar as the three waited for Campanelli.

Later that night, Campanelli walked into the bar with his girlfriend Jennifer Halsworth. Moments after entering Mugsy’s, the two were attacked.

The beating
The beating began just after 2:30 a.m.

Halsworth was assaulted in the head with a pool cue. Campanelli was stabbed multiple times with two knives that were found near his body.

Halsworth, who worked as a bartender at Mugsy’s, told the court that she recognized the Rosas brothers’ voices during the attack. While he was being stabbed, Campanelli pleaded for his life. Halsworth testified she heard the brothers say, “Check his pulse,” while the other said, “He’s not dead yet.”

As he laid on the ground, the brothers are suspected of crushing Campanelli’s skull with a fire extinguisher, and then discharging the extinguisher in his face.

The aftermath
Just after the Rosas brothers left, Halsworth said she tried to call 911. That was moments after 3 a.m. Then, Christopher Rosas returned, took the phone from her, and left again. There was no landline phone in the bar. Locked inside the bar, Halsworth broke a window and ran to Soledad Canyon Road. She then flagged down a motorist, who called 911.

Deputies found Campanelli’s body about 5:30 a.m. A chainlink necklace belonging to Ralph Rosas was found about 10 feet from Campanelli’s body, Lankford said.

“We believe that while Campanelli was defending himself he grabbed the necklace, and it fell off Ralph Rosas’ neck as he walked away,” Lankford said in an interview.

When the two men left the bar, the door was locked behind them. Christopher Rosas and Campanelli were the only two people who had keys to the bar, Silverman said.

Campanelli suffered a long, painful death, Lankford said. His skull was fractured, and he choked on his own blood as he died.

Closing statements
Christopher Rosas’ defense attorney David Houchin said in his closing statement that Cynthia Wilson Rosas’ testimony couldn’t be trusted because of the plea agreement she received. Cynthia, who was facing a murder charge, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, and was sentenced to three years in prison in exchange for her testimony against the brothers.

“If you were facing the type of prison time she was facing, anybody would jump on that bandwagon,” Houchin said.

Houchin also said it was illogical for Christopher Rosas to kill Campanelli in the bar they both owned.

“To commit a murder of a business partner at their business is unlikely,” Houchin said in his closing statement.
Silverman rebuked the defense’s logic.

“Those are good arguments to be made if you’re dealing with people who are reasonable and bright,” Silverman said.
“There is no evidence in this case that the defendants are bright.”

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