A 40-year-old man was sentenced to two life-in-prison-without-the-possibility-of-parole sentences for his first-degree murder conviction late last year.
An Adams County District Court jury convicted Steven Muniz in the murders of 33-year-old Keith Ames and 31-year-old Jessica Ybarra following an altercation outside a Westminster bar.
According to a press statement, Muniz, some of his family and friends of a gang to which he belongs went to the Sportswatch Bar and Grill in March 2021. An altercation started between members of Muniz’s group and another group of individuals at the bar. It became physical after Muniz punched one of the people from the other group.
People began to leave the bar early March 6. One of them was Ames, who’d been involved in the confrontation earlier in the evening. The press statement said Muniz followed Ames, after which another confrontation began. Muniz fired four shots from a 9-mm handgun. Two of them struck Ames in the back; he later died. The other two shots struck Ybarra as she stood in the nearby parking lot. She died as well.
The press statement said after firing the four shots that killed Ames and Ybarra, Muniz fled on foot and jumped in the truck of a friend, Robert Manzanares. The two drove away from the scene. Nearly two weeks later, thanks to an investigation by the Westminster Police Department, Muniz was identified as the shooter and was taken into custody.
“This was an unconscionable and reprehensible crime,” said District Attorney Brian Mason at the time of the conviction. “The defendant murdered two people in cold blood to settle a petty score. His violent actions left two families reeling and a city asking why?”
Mason added to those comments after sentencing Feb. 3.
“The brutal murder of these two victims by Mr. Muniz has shattered multiple lives,” said the press statement. “The heartfelt words from the loved ones of Keith Ames and Jessica Ybarra during today’s sentencing hearing were painful and powerful. The defendant will now spend the rest of his life in prison because of his crimes. I hope he takes some time to contemplate the words he heard in court today.”
An Adams County jury convicted Manzanares in December of being an accessory to a crime. He’s serving a three-year term in the Department of Corrections.