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Guilty verdict in love triangle killing outside downtown Santa Rosa brewpub

  • Ryan Dietz, left, and Garicka Rush are shown in an undated photo posted on Facebook. (Facebook)

Jurors returned a guilty verdict Friday against a Santa Rosa man charged with killing his romantic rival outside a downtown brewpub.

Ryan Mitchell Dietz, 31, was convicted of first-degree murder in the 2011 slaying of Jack Romero, 33, also of Santa Rosa, who had been carrying on an affair with the mother of Dietz's three children, Garicka Rush, 34.

“I'm very happy,” said a teary-eyed Christine Romero, the victim's mother, as she left the courtroom with more than a dozen family members. “Unfortunately, nothing is going to bring my son back.”

The panel of seven women and five men reached the verdict in less than four hours of deliberation following three weeks of testimony.

They rejected defense arguments that the case was built on flimsy circumstantial evidence, finding testimony about Rush, who was dispatched by Dietz to dispose of ammunition the day after the slaying, to be persuasive.

They were not swayed by the suggestion that Romero, a former Sonoma County correctional officer, had many enemies and could have been killed by someone else.

“Even though the evidence was circumstantial, it was overwhelming,” said a male juror from Santa Rosa who declined to give his name. “No other avenues led anywhere else but to him.”

Dietz faces 75 years to life in prison at his sentencing. Use of a gun coupled with a prior serious felony conviction increases his potential punishment beyond the typical 25-to-life term.

He returns to court July 5 to set a sentencing date.

The slaying happened nearly two years to the day before the verdict, on June 29, 2011 outside Third Street Aleworks.

Rush, who lived with Dietz and their children, slipped off to meet Romero, a former neighbor she was resuming an affair with.

Around midnight, as the two mingled with other patrons outside the brewpub, Dietz confronted Romero in a darkened alleyway and shot him 11 times.

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