RIO LINDA (CBS13) — A Rio Linda man accused in a fatal ax attack on a man he mistakenly believed had broken into his house has been found guilty.
A Sacramento County jury on Tuesday found Steven Zinda guilty in the murder of David Valdez.
Authorities say Zinda mistakenly believed that Valdez had burglarized his home when he chased Valdez down a Rio Linda street and bashed his face with an ax March 20, 2011.
Authorities say Zinda came home to find his home ransacked. He allegedly grabbed an ax and went after the 20-year-old Valdez, who was in the neighborhood attending a house party and waiting on the street for a ride.
Believing that Valdez was the suspect, Zinda told investigators he chased the younger man into a field a quarter-mile away and fatally wounded him.
The victim’s family rushed out in tears after hearing the verdict. His mother was disappointed her son’s killer was convicted of a lesser charge.
“You hurt my son many, many times,” Maria Nunez said outside the courtroom. “I probably could not remember how many times he hit him.”
Valdez was simply waiting for help with his car when he was attacked.
“He got stuck in mud and Zinda came home and saw him there and chases him what three and a half football fields down the road,” family friend Christine Taylor said.
“He’s a younger man,” Nunez said. “He don’t do nothing bad to nobody.”
Valdez’s friends and family are still highly emotional over such a horrid homicide. He was months from starting courses to be an electrician.
“The pain’s never going to go away,” Nunez said.
Zinda’s attorney says his client could face 16 years to life in prison. Zinda had entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.
“Mr. Zinda feels horrible,” attorney Tom Johnson said.
Valdez’s family says it doesn’t compare to their pain of now enduring a life sentence without a loved one.
“He was giving, caring, loving,” Taylor said. “He thought of others before himself. It’s just a tragedy.”
Sentencing is set for Jan. 11.