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Tuesday, November 1, 1994 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Guilty Verdict In Ballard Murder -- Ronquillo, Driver Convicted; Hung Jury For Reyes

Brian Ronquillo was convicted today of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder in a drive-by shooting that killed a student outside Ballard High School last March.

Ronquillo, 17, killed 16-year-old student Melissa Fernandes as she stood outside the school after classes.

Cesar Sarausad II, the driver of the car, was convicted of second-degree murder and two counts of attempted second-degree murder for his role in the March 17 shooting.

The King County Superior Court jury could not agree, however, on any of the charges involving 18-year-old Jerome Reyes, who prosecutors said had instigated the attack. Prosecutors have the option of re-trying him.

Fernandes' mother, Tammy Fernandes, listened quietly to the verdict while Ronquillo's mother wept.

Ronquillo fired at least eight shots from a semiautomatic weapon while Sarausad drove.

Ronquillo faces a standard prison term of between 52 and 69 years. Sarausad faces between 28 and 37 years. The ranges are high because the murder and attempted murder convictions must be served consecutively rather than simultaneously.

The attempted murder convictions stemmed from shots fired at two boys, Ryan Lam and Tam Nguyen. The boys stood near Fernandes when shots were fired.

Jurors found Ronquillo and Sarausad guilty of second-degree assault because one of the bullets ricocheted and wounded another student.

The verdict came after 40 hours of deliberation, one of the longest in recent memory in King County Superior Court.

Deputy prosecutors Lisa Marchese and Sue Noonan said the shooting was prompted by a pushing and taunting match an hour earlier at the school between Ronquillo's group and members of a rival gang who attend the school.

Sarausad and Reyes admitted they were gang members and that the confrontations were a matter of regaining respect in the eyes of the other gang. But both claimed they had no idea Ronquillo had a gun and did not see a bandana around his face until after the shooting started.

Prosecutors said Sarausad had to have known Ronquillo, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, had a gun, and he drove slowly enough for the shots to be fired before speeding off.

Reyes, they claimed, urged the confrontations because he had been run off the campus a few days before.

Defense attorney Anthony Savage asked jurors to consider second-degree murder or manslaughter, contending Ronquillo didn't have murder on his mind when he shot toward the school.

Ronquillo did not testify and showed little emotion, other than an occasional smile to his family.

Prosecutors said calculations by the Washington State Crime Lab showed the bullets were likely fired on a horizontal plane, not into the air or ground.

The three defendants were among 10 teenagers and young men in two cars that passed by the school that afternoon. The other seven have either pleaded guilty to rendering criminal assistance or have signed letters saying they will plead guilty. All face a up to a year in jail for their roles.

Copyright (c) 1994 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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