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Home / beating death

Alleged mastermind convicted in Azusa-area homicide

A man whom the prosecution contended was the mastermind of the beating death of a 20-year-old man whose body was found on the side of a mountain road in the Angeles National Forest near Azusa was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder and kidnapping.

The downtown Los Angeles jury deliberated about a day before finding Matthew Capiendo, now 27, guilty in the May 2018 killing of Julian Hamori-Andrade.

Jurors also found true the special-circumstance allegations of murder while lying in wait and murder during the commission of a kidnapping and murder during the commission of a robbery, along with an allegation that Capiendo personally used a deadly or dangerous weapon.

The panel acquitted Capiendo of a separate robbery charge involving the same victim.

Capiendo — the only one of the five defendants to go to trial in connection with the killing — is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole. He is set to be sentenced Feb. 2 by Superior Court Judge Lisa B. Lench.

Deputy District Attorney Sarika Kim said after the verdict that Capiendo planned and initiated the attack, directed the victim to be moved to Azusa Canyon, engaged in a group beating there and climbed down the edge of the canyon after the victim was pushed over to “finish him off” in the words of one of his accomplices. Capiendo allegedly told the other defendants that the victim had stolen marijuana from him, but there was no proof of that, according to the prosecutor.

Defense attorney Anthony Garcia had urged the jury to reject the special circumstance allegations and to consider the lesser count of second-degree murder, which would have made Capiendo eligible for parole.

Four other defendants who had been charged along with Capiendo pleaded no contest or guilty in connection with the attack.

Hercules Dimitrios Balaskas, 24, pleaded no contest on the eve of trial to first-degree murder and was sentenced in October to 25 years to life in state prison.

Andrew Williams, 24, pleaded guilty April 21 to one count of voluntary manslaughter, three counts of kidnapping and seven counts of assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury. All of the charges involve the same victim.

He is facing 25 years in state prison and is still awaiting sentencing.

Francisco Amigon, now 24, was sentenced to 11 years in state prison and Jacob Hunter Elmendorf, 24, was ordered to serve six years behind bars after the two pleaded no contest in September 2021 to voluntary manslaughter.

The victim’s body was discovered May 30, 2018, in heavy brush about 30 feet down a hill alongside Highway 39 in Azusa Canyon, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Authorities said he was beaten at Capiendo’s home in the 6100 block of Goodway Drive in the Azusa area, where authorities found a large pool of blood on the floor two days earlier. Hamori-Andrade was then driven to Azusa Canyon, where again he was beaten and thrown over the side of the road, according to investigators.

At Balaskas’ sentencing, the victim’s mother Desiree Andrade said the courthouse has been her “second home” for the past five years — a chapter that she said she never wants to reopen or relive.

“There is never enough punishment in my eyes for you for what you have done,” she said, directly addressing the defendant. “What you did was pure evil. He did not deserve this ending. You brutally took away my son, a brother, a love and a daddy to two beautiful kids. … I hope that in the time you spend in prison you are reminded of that day over and over and over again as I will be for the rest of my life.”

The victim’s sister, Jasmine Andrade, said she was her younger brother’s protector and best friend, and didn’t expect the last time she said goodbye to him to be the last time she would ever see his face or hear his voice.

“Every single second of every day I think about him, about the memories we made growing up together, about all of the things we would have done together in our future,” she said. “Never did I think that he would be taken from this earth so young, be robbed of the opportunity to raise his children or to meet my two children. … Every single one of these men, including the one sitting here with us today, had the opportunity to do the right thing, make the right choice and stop this before it went too far. Unfortunately, none of them had the guts and conscience to do so, and in turn played a part in taking the life of a human being — my younger brother, a father, a son, a grandson and friend.”

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