Wednesday, September 27, 2017

IN THE NEWS: Guilty verdicts for Barstow mother, son in murder of family’s patriarch

By Matthew Cabe
Staff Writer                      
VICTORVILLE — A mother and son from Barstow were found guilty of murder and other felony charges Tuesday after a nearly month-long trial that detailed the 2011 death of the family’s 85-year-old patriarch. 

A jury also found Ruth Ruffalo, 87, and Marcus Razario, 56, guilty of torture, elder abuse and false imprisonment in connection to a Sept. 18, 2011, beating that left Michael Ruffalo severely injured and ultimately resulted in his death 11 days later. 

The verdict ended a family’s six-year struggle for justice, according to 

Gina Samorajski, who — with her sister, Michele Wagstaff — testified against her mother and brother during the trial. 

“I feel dad got vindicated,” Samorajski said after the hearing. “Even though my mom hates me so much, I still feel bad for her that she chose that road. My brother, I don’t know what to think about him. He’s crazy.” 

Samorajski said she believes her mother has mental problems, adding she was “really shocked” by the murder conviction for Ruth Ruffalo, who stunned her husband more than 20 times with a Taser during a violent fight between Michael Ruffalo and Razario, testimony revealed. 

Ruth Ruffalo’s mental competency was previously a concern in the case; however, she was deemed fit to 

stand trial during a 2014 hearing, according to a previous Daily Press report. 

With a bailiff standing watch behind them, Razario and Ruth Ruffalo sat in silence as San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Charles Umeda looked through documents that contained the jury’s decision. Neither defendant showed much outward emotion when the verdicts were finally read minutes later. 

Arguably the biggest challenge for the prosecution was that Michael Ruffalo did not succumb to his injuries until nearly two weeks after the beating that left him with brain hemorrhaging, a facial laceration, broken ribs, a fractured sternum and multiple puncture wounds from the Taser. 

A San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner report exacerbated the challenge insofar as Michael Ruffalo’s cause of death was listed as a urinary tract infection. To counter the report, prosecutor Sean Daugherty brought in Dr. Laura Mosqueda, of the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, to counter the report. 

Mosqueda testified via videothatMichaelRuffalo’s cause of death could have come from “numerous sources of infection,” including from his broken ribs and the blood that pooled in his brain. 

Dan Chambers and Michael Duncan — attorneys for Razario and Ruth Ruffalo, respectively — arguedMosqueda’sopinion was unqualified as she 

is not a forensic pathologist. They stated during opening arguments that Daugherty “shopped around” for a doctor who would testify against the conclusion of the coroner’s report. 

Both defense attorneys argued their clients acted in self defense because Michael Ruffalo brandished a gun during the brutal altercation. During his own testimony, Razario said the incident was “a struggle for my life” because he “didn’t want to get shot.” 

Michael Ruffalo let go the gun after his wife stunned him with the Taser, but Razario continued to beat and slap his father even though the “threat was over,” according to Daugherty, who told jurors nothing Razarior or Ruth Ruffalo did was consistent with self-defense. 

Sentencing was scheduled for Dec. 8 after both defendants waived time following the verdicts. Duncan told Umeda time was needed to address the “psychological and medical issues” of Ruth Ruffalo.
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