Wildomar Pastor's Son's Killing Was Premeditated Murder, Prosecutor Says

Ryan Armstrong, a Wildomar pastor's son, was fatally stabbed Dec. 26, 2008 and three men are on trial for murder.

Eds Note: This article was updated at 1 p.m. to include remarks from Marvin Black's attorney.


Three men jumped out of a truck and fatally wounded a Wildomar pastor’s son in a blitz attack, a prosecutor said Wednesday, but defense attorneys for the men told a different story.

Ryan Armstrong, son of Cornerstone Community Church's Pastor Ron Armstrong, was fatally stabbed about 10:45 p.m. Dec. 26, 2008; his friend Joel Ross was seriously injured, also suffering stab wounds.

Matthew Basler, James Fung and Marvin Black all face 60 years if convicted of murder and attempted murder.

Fung is additionally charged with trying to intimidate a witness.

During his opening remarks to the jury Wednesday at the Southwest Justice Center, Prosecutor Brandon Smith told the panel that the attacks on Armstrong and Ross took about 45 seconds and that the knife assault was a “premeditated murder … over … nothing.

“These men stabbed 21-year-old Ryan Armstrong to death that night,” Smith told the jury.

Smith said that the knifing was a culmination of an argument that began inside ET Sports Lounge in Temecula over harsh words spoken to a drunk young woman in Armstrong’s party.

Both parties were drinking at the bar that night; Basler’s group was playing pool.

Smith told the jury that Basler jumped and “sucker punched” Armstrong before both were thrown out of the bar.

Armstrong and Basler separated and went different ways but, Smith said, Basler drove around the block and returned to the alley behind the bar. The defendants jumped out of the vehicle and attacked Armstrong, Smith alleged.

Ross was stabbed when he pulled Fung off his friend.

“He remembers things started to go white,” Smith said of Ross.

Later, said Smith, Fung would realize that he left his knife at the scene.

A knife recovered at the scene bore Fung’s DNA, Smith told the jury.

Fung's attorney, Karen Lockhart, said her client did not take part in any attack; rather, said Lockhart, "My client was the peacekeeper."

Lockhart told the jury that Fung was jumped from behind and only fought to defend himself.

"The individual takes my client down and is beginning to choke him," Lockhart said.

The attorney added that the knife found at the scene -- the one bearing Fung's DNA -- was not the knife that inflicted the killing wound.

A "double-bladed" knife was the one used to inflict the mortal injury, Lockhart said.

Black's attorney, Joshua Knight, said his client only became involved in the skirmish because his friend Fung was being attacked.

Black did not jump out of the truck when Basler and Fung did because he did not want to fight anyone.

"Mr. Black was not looking for a fight," Knight told the jury. "He was trying to help his friend.

"He was trying to take him out of the situation and he was attacked," Knight said of Black.

Knight said that his client was not present earlier in the evening, when Fung and Basler allegedly compared knives; he did not bring one to the fight either, the attorney said.

"He never had a knife; never," Knight said of his client.

Basler's attorney reserved his remarks for later in the trial.

Armstrong's father Ron is the founder of Wildomar-based Cornerstone Community Church, 34570 Monte Vista Drive. The church has more than 1,000 members, according to its website.

Anthony October 03, 2012 at 10:42 PM
Justice will prevail!
BIGTOM October 04, 2012 at 12:01 AM
I hope these jackasses get the death penalty,dress them up any way you want they are still murders over a stupid pool game.They are a waste of life,I hope justice well prevail.
Reverend Smith October 04, 2012 at 01:11 AM
It's not just the overloaded legal system. The system is under-funded to the point that the state has declared days court is closed down. In addition, in this particular case, look at the headings of the related stories: * Judge Denies Accused Murderers' Request * Accused Murderers Seek Jury Pool Outside Wildomar, Temecula * Trial Underway For Men Accused Of Killing Wildomar Pastor's Son * Trial For Murdered Pastor's Son Sees Another Delay * Trial Delayed For Accused Killers Of Cornerstone Community Pastor's Son Requests, jury search, another delay, trial delayed. It's obvious the defense lawyers know this can't end well for their clients and so they're just trying to delay the grim end as long as they can so the memory among the perspective jury pool dissipates.
John Lloyd October 04, 2012 at 06:26 AM
To lose 60 years of your life is a shame. These guys are stupid. I'm betting they realize how stupid it was to kill someone because they felt disrespected, but it's way too late now. They have killed a young man, trashed a family and changed the lives of thousands of people, over nothing. Sad, just sad.
Josephine November 12, 2012 at 07:15 AM
I herd one of the 3 guys had a young girl. It's sad she will never know who her dad is. It's a shame. Not only the Armestrong family lost someone. The young child will mere see her dad. I don't care about people who kill. They will all have their boyfriends in jail.


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