General Crime

* Joseph Lopez Jr. convicted second-degree murder of one man cleared of murder of Matthew Toste and Paul Whiterock cleared

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A Sonoma County jury this morning convicted one man but acquitted another of fatally shooting a man in a downtown Santa Rosa parking garage in 2006.The jury convicted Joseph Lopez Jr., 21, of second-degree murder, being a member of a criminal street gang, and use of a weapon charges. The nine women and three men on the jury, however found Lopez did not kill 32-year-old Matthew Toste on Dec. 3, 2006, in furtherance of the gang. Lopez will be sentenced April 29.The jury cleared Paul Whiterock, 29, of all charges, including murder, being a street gang member and being an accessory to the murder. He will be released from the Sonoma County jail today.His attorney Kristine Burk said, “I’m so relieved they did the absolute right thing. He’s going to resume his life and reunite with his family.”Whiterock’s mother Paula Whiterock said, “I’m very glad his innocence has been proven. I thank God.” Whiterock has been in the Sonoma County jail almost 23 months.Lopez Jr., Whiterock and three other men were indicted by a Sonoma County grand jury in June 2008 for first-degree murder and gang charges. The three other defendants pleaded no contest to lesser charges, including being a gang member and an accessory to a crime.Toste, his date, a female cousin and her husband were in the Seventh Street parking garage on the way to a nightclub when Joseph Lopez Sr. made a derogatory comment to the women.Toste swung at Lopez Sr. and knocked him out. Lopez Jr. shot Toste twice in the chest. The defense said he thought Toste had shot his father. Whiterock was accused of supplying the gun.The killing shocked the community and raised concerns about safety and the presence of gang members in downtown Santa Rosa.Jurors would not comment on their verdict this morning. They began deliberations Tuesday and resumed them Thursday.Prosecutors were not immediately available for comment on the verdicts. Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Lawrence Antolini continued a gag order that was imposed before the trial started about two months ago.

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