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Yuma man found guilty in baseball bat death

YUMA, Ariz. -- A jury on Tuesday convicted an Arizona man accused in the beating death of a Yuma man in a bizarre case of mistaken identity.

After three days of deliberations, the Yuma County jury found Manuel Bustamante guilty of two counts of first-degree murder in the killing of 33-year-old Kendal Smith, the Yuma Sun reported.

Jurors also convicted Bustamante of conspiracy to commit possession of narcotic drugs for sale, among other charges.

Several family members who had attended the trial were visibly upset and cried outside the courthouse after the verdicts were read.

Yuma County deputies say a group of men led by Bustamante beat Smith to death with baseball bats in 2012 after accusing him of stealing drugs- a claim that turned out to be false.

According to testimony at trial, Bustamante's girlfriend stole 40 pounds of methamphetamine and a kilogram of heroin from a drug dealer a few months earlier and later approached Bustamante to help her sell it, eventually forming a partnership with him.

Bustamante and several members of his crew went to the Yuma apartment armed with baseball bats that night because Bustamante's girlfriend had given the heroin to someone, and the men thought it was being kept there. Once at the apartment, Bustamante and the others were confronted by Smith.

Sentencing is scheduled for next month. Bustamante faces life in prison.

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Information from: The Sun, http://www.yumasun.com

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