After two full days of deliberations a Stanislaus County jury returned a guilty verdict of involuntary manslaughter for the Turlock man who shot and killed a 25-year-old man who had been caught on his property.
The jury of nine women and three men found Robin Boyer, 62, guilty of involuntary manslaughter for the death of Brandon Pacheco on July 23, 2013. The jury also convicted Boyer of two felony counts of assault with a firearm. All the convictions have enhancements of using a firearm.
The charge of involuntary manslaughter was a lesser charge the jury was able to consider if they could not agree on the more serious charges of murder or voluntary manslaughter. For a jury to convict a person of involuntary manslaughter they have to find true that the killing was unintentional but was also the result of the defendant acting in a manner that was criminally negligent or showed a reckless disregard for human life.
For the jury there was never a question on whether or not Boyer fired the fatal shot that claimed Pacheco's life. It was a fact undisputed by the Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office and Boyer's defense attorney Kirk McCallister. What was up for dispute was the intention Boyer had when he fired that shot.
The prosecution, led by Deputy District Attorney John Mayne, believed Boyer's actions were driven more by frustration and anger over a series of thefts, while the defense countered that he was just trying to protect his family and property and that the death was an accidental shooting that resulted from misjudging how high he was firing over Pacheco's head.
The shooting occurred shortly before 8 a.m. July 23, 2013 on a berm near Boyer’s home in the 1100 block of Dianne Drive. Both Boyer’s home and that of his mother, which is next door, had been the scene of recent thefts and in some of those thefts family members saw a man speeding away from the properties on a motorbike. Boyer's brother-in-law Richard Haile testified that the thief had been seen on the property the day before during the afternoon and he and others had tried to follow the man, but that they lost track of him.
Boyer had told Turlock Police investigators that he spotted a man, later identified as Pacheco, on his property that morning and that he went to retrieve his shotgun and a cell phone. In an audio interview with Turlock Police Detective Brandon Bertram, Boyer said he got his shotgun because he “wanted to scare the hell out of him.”
Boyer testified during the trial that he confronted Pacheco on the dirt berm and got his attention by chambering a round in the shotgun. Boyer said Pacheco told him "I'm not thieving” and moved to get on his motorbike. Boyer said he ordered Pacheco to get on the ground, but instead Pacheco revved the motorbike, so Boyer fired a warning shot into the ground, according to Boyer’s testimony.
In his interviews with the investigators, Boyer stated Pacheco was in the process of turning the bike around when he took aim over his head and fired the second shot. On the stand, Boyer testified that Pacheco was still facing him and revving the motorbike when he fired the second shot.
Under cross-examination Boyer stated the raised gun was blocking his view of Pacheco and that he could not tell if the motorbike was moving at the time. He also testified he could not see the wagon full of stolen batteries that was attached to the back of the motorbike.
Boyer testified that after firing the second shot he heard Pacheco say “you shot me” before slowly slumping to the ground. Boyer told the investigators and testified in court that Pacheco didn’t appear to have any signs of life and so he went back to his home to let them know what had transpired. He said he didn’t use his cell phone to call for emergency response because his hands were too shaky.
Pacheco was struck in the back and the back of his head by five of the nine shotgun pellets. On Jan. 25, the jury heard from Dr. Sungook Baik, a forensic pathologist that performed the autopsy on Pacheco. He testified that based on the injuries, it likely would have been between 10 to 20 minutes before Pacheco died. He also testified that the methamphetamine in Pacheco’s system could have hastened his death by a few minutes or seconds. He stated Pacheco likely would have lived had he gotten immediate medical attention.
During his time on the stand Boyer told the jury that Pacheco was acting erratic and appeared high on some narcotic. Baik did testify that methamphetamine had been detected in Pacheco's system during the autopsy.
Boyer also told the jury he was afraid for his life and was fearing that Pacheco was going to come charging at him on the motorbike. During his initial interview with the detective and during the preliminary hearing Boyer did not mention feeling an immediate fear for his life, but did repeatedly state the shooting was an accident and said it was something he would carry with him for the rest of his life.
A sentencing hearing is set for 8:30 a.m. March 8 in Stanislaus County Superior Court, where Boyer could face a maximum of 14 years in prison. Boyer has been in custody since his arrest in March 2015.