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Gang tattoos are visible on the face of Matthew Ruiz, 20, as he looks toward the audience after hearing the verdict at the Monterey County Courthouse in Salinas on Wednesday.

Two young men accused of ambushing four teenagers and killing two of them in Salinas in 2009 were found guilty Wednesday after an almost month-long jury trial.

Matthew Ruiz and Albert Hernández, both 20, were found guilty of first-degree murder for the deaths of Ociel Montiel and Rodolfo Cristobal, shot to death inside a car on Oct. 14, 2009.

Ruiz and Hernández, who were 17 at the time of the attack, were also found guilty of attempted murder for the shooting of two other victims during the same attack, identified only as Juan and Christian in court proceedings.

The jury arrived at the verdict on its third day of deliberations. Family members of the defendants wept as the clerk read the decision. Cristobal's mother sat stoically in the section reserved for the victims' families. She later declined comment and said she will speak during sentencing.

Although the jurors did not determine who was the shooter in the crime, both defendants were also found guilty of using a firearm in the commission of a crime and of committing a crime on behalf of the Norteño street gang, which carry additional penalties.

On the day of the murders, Ruiz and Hernández went for a ride with the four victims in Juan's car. All were 14 to 17 years old at the time, and the prosecution contended Ruiz and Hernández, Norteños, pretended to be Sureños to lure the four victims into an ambush.


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The group rode around Salinas and finally stopped at Archer Street near Hartnell College, where the four victims were shot inside the car. Cristobal died at the scene, Montiel died days later at the hospital, Christian was left quadriplegic and Juan survived.

Both survivors testified during the trial.

Ruiz and Hernández were arrested almost two weeks after the attack. They've been lodged in Juvenile Hall and Monterey County Jail since then. They both got prominent gang-related tattoos on their faces after their arrest.

The Archer Street killings marked the 23rd and 24th homicides in Salinas for 2009, the city's worst year for gang homicides.

Ruiz and Hernández turned down plea offers days before the month-long trial began. In her last jury trial before she heads to California Appellate Court, Judge Adrienne Grover placed extra restrictions on media coverage.

After the verdict was read, Grover thanked the jurors and attorneys.

"We've all benefited from the level of experience, competence and professionalism" everyone demonstrated, Grover said. "The experience would have been different had that not been the case."

Ruiz and Hernández will remain in Monterey County Jail pending their sentencing. They are facing sentences of hundreds of years in prison because of the gang and gun enhancements. They are to be sentenced Feb. 27.

Claudia Meléndez Salinas can be reached at 753-6755 or cmelendez@montereyherald.com.