Wilde’s trial began last month with prosecutors alleging that the 33-year-old gunned down two workers at his growing operation, killing Mario Roberto Juarez-Madrid and critically wounding Fernando Lopez. The shootings occurred after the two men demanded to be paid for the work they’d done and to be returned to their homes outside of Sacramento. Wilde — who was facing financial troubles and had recently filed for bankruptcy — told the men he’d take them home but returned to the rural property armed with a handgun and opened fire.
The trial began
early last month, and attorneys delivered closing arguments Feb. 27, after which the jury began deliberating, discussing the case behind closed doors from 2 to 5 p.m. before breaking for the weekend. Jurors reconvened today at 8:30 a.m. and returned a verdict shortly after 10:30 a.m., finding Wilde guilty of all charges, including conspiracy to possess and distribute more than 1,000 marijuana plants and first degree murder in the furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
Juarez-Madrid, of Santa Rosa, Guatemala, had been living in the United States illegally for less than a year at the time of the shooting, according to Humboldt County Deputy Coroner Charles Van Buskirk. His remains were ultimately returned for burial to his home country, where Juarez-Madrid left behind a wife and two children.
Wilde was represented in the case by J. Tony Serra
, a highly respected defense attorney who is a bit of a cult figure in the legal community. Deputy U.S. attorneys Wil Frentzen and Kimberly Hopkins prosecuted the case. See past Journal
UPDATE: The U.S. Attorney's Office just issued a press release, which is copied below:
HUMBOLDT COUNTY MARIJUANA FARMER FOUND GUILTY OF MURDERING IMMIGRANT WORKER ON HIS FARM
Jury Finds Mikal X. Wilde Guilty of all Counts, Including First Degree Murder
SAN FRANCISCO – This morning, a federal jury found Mikal X. Wilde guilty of six felonies including Using a Firearm to Commit First Degree Murder, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(j), Murder in the Course of a Narcotics Offense, in violation of 21 U.S.C. ' 848(e)(1)(A), Conspiracy to Commit Marijuana Offenses, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841, Marijuana Offenses, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841, and two counts of Using a Firearm During a Crime of Violence or Narcotics Trafficking Offense, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), announced U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson. The charges stemmed from the defendant’s murder of Mario Roberto Juarez-Madrid and the shooting of Pedro Fernando Lopez-Paz on August 25, 2010, on the defendant’s marijuana farm in Humboldt County, California.
Evidence at trial showed that Wilde, 33, of Kneeland, Calif., began a large marijuana grow with more than 1500 plants on over 800 acres of mountain property in Kneeland, California – close to Eureka – during the summer of 2010. In the course of his marijuana cultivation operation, Wilde hired three workers to water and care for the plants, including Mr. Juarez-Madrid and Mr. Lopez-Paz, both from Guatemala. During August of 2010, Wilde provided the workers with firearms to protect against robbery of the marijuana grow. In late August, the workers became unhappy and wanted to leave with payment for the work they had already performed after Wilde altered their work conditions. Rather than paying the workers, Wilde took the firearms away from them, and on August 25, 2010, returned to the property armed, and shot them. Wilde shot Mr. Lopez-Paz in the face, but he survived, hiding in the woods all night until he found help the following morning. Wilde shot Mr. Juarez-Madrid three times and hunted him down, with the final shot a contact wound to the back of Mr. Juarez-Madrid’s head. The third worker, Christopher Bigelow, also fled into the woods and hid until he was found by a jogger the following morning. The jury found the defendant guilty of a premeditated first degree murder, in addition to the other charges listed above.
Wilde is scheduled to be sentenced on June 3, 2015, by the Honorable Edward M. Chen, U.S. District Judge. The defendant faces a possible sentence of a mandatory minimum 55 years up to two terms of life in prison, a $1.5 million fine, and five years of supervised release. However, any sentence will be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kimberly Hopkins and William Frentzen, paralegal specialist Kevin Costello, and legal techs Lance Libatique, Ponly Tu, Daniel Charlier-Smith, and Marina Ponomarchuk. The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, San Francisco Division and Sacramento Division; Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office; Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office; United States Marshals Service; California Highway Patrol; CalFire; and Redding Police Department.
After deliberating for about five hours, a federal jury today convicted Mikal Xylon Wilde of six charges, including the murder of one of the men working his Kneeland marijuana farm in 2010. Wilde faces life in federal prison when sentenced in the case on June 3.