Jury Selection Underway in Killing of Pastor's Son

Three men are accused in the Dec. 26, 2008 stabbing death of Ryan Joshua Armstrong outside ET Lounge in Temecula.

Jury selection was set to begin today for the trial of three men accused of killing a pastor's son following a confrontation in a Temecula bar that also left the young man's friend seriously injured.

Matthew Alexis Basler, 34, Marvin Justin Black, 29, and James Wing Fung, 33, could each face more than 60 years in prison if convicted of first-degree murder, attempted murder and weapons allegations in the Dec. 26, 2008, slaying of 22-year-old Ryan Joshua Armstrong and the stabbing of his friend, Joel Ross.

The defendants are each being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta.

Pretrial motions in the case were heard Monday by Riverside County Superior Court Judge Angel Bermudez, who was scheduled to summon the first panel of prospective jurors Tuesday for screening as to their availability and qualifications.

According to prosecutors, Basler, Black and Fung -- all of San Diego -- went to ET Sports Lounge in Temecula on the same night Armstrong, Ross and about 10 other friends went there to play pool.

The defendants and two girls were in the middle of a game when a young woman, apparently drunk and conversing with the victims, obliviously sat a cup of beer on the defendants' table.

Black took the cup and tucked it into the woman's purse, chiding her, which caused her to tear up, prompting Armstrong to come to her defense, according to a trial brief filed by Deputy District Attorney Brandon Smith.

Smith said Armstrong and Basler exchanged words, the latter inviting the victim to step outside, which Armstrong declined to do.

The two sides cooled down, but Basler, Black and Fung allegedly conspired to feign an olive branch by apologizing profusely to Armstrong in the hope of luring him out of the bar to beat him, according to court papers.

The ruse failed, leading to a brief scuffle in the doorway leading to the alley, at which point bar bouncers threw all of the parties out, making them go their separate ways, Smith said.

Basler, his co-defendants and their two girlfriends piled into his pickup truck and started to leave the area, but Basler was still fuming, allegedly shouting, "I'm gonna (expletive) that guy up," according to the brief.

The defendant drove his pickup into the alleyway behind the bar, looking for Armstrong, who was in a separate parking lot with three friends, court papers state.

Basler, Black and Fung spotted the victims and jumped out of the truck, making a bee line for Armstrong. Basler and Fung were allegedly armed with pocket knives and stabbed the young man five times, including once in the heart, according to prosecutors.

Ross attempted to intervene and was stabbed four times in the side, causing him to collapse and black out. He never identified which of the defendants allegedly attacked him, according to prosecutors.

Fung's blood-stained knife was recovered at the scene, Smith said.

Armstrong, a Chapman University student and the son of Ron Armstrong, founder of Wildomar-based Cornerstone Community Church, died that night in a hospital.

Based on eyewitness statements, including from the two women who were with them, the defendants were identified and arrested within a few days.

Adrian September 19, 2012 at 06:41 PM
I wonder why Patch had to point out that the victim was a pastor's son. This might be nit-picking, but I doubt it would have read "plumber's son" had that been the case.
Maxx September 19, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Finally getting dealt with eh? I hope these guys rot, and drop the soap many times. They arn't so tuff when not in numbers.
Adrian Marine September 19, 2012 at 10:50 PM
ADRIAN I'm glad that they mentioned that the victim was a pastor's son, so that I could better know who was a affected a this murder in our town.
Adrian September 19, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Well, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. To be fair, let's hope that news reports include the occupations of the parents of all crime victims from now on. I just think it's an attempt at sensationalism. The fact that he's a pastor's son means nothing as far as the crime is concerned, at least in the sense that it means nothing more than if his father was Joe Schmoe the electrician.
Elaine September 21, 2012 at 04:36 PM
I would think that people would understand that a congregation is a community unto itself and would appreciate knowing if their pastor's family was affected by this crime. It is not the fact that the father is a pastor, but that the parishioners of Cornerstone and others in our towns would like clarification that this is the same Armstrong family. So sorry to hear of this loss.


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