Reyna convicted of killing man in fight

OKEECHOBEE — An Okeechobee man is facing up to 15 years in prison after being found guilty of killing a man in a 2014 fight outside a local nightspot.

Ramiro Reyna, 25, was found guilty Wednesday, May 4, on one count of manslaughter. He was initially charged with one count of manslaughter and one count of felony battery.

Ramiro Reyna

Ramiro Reyna

However, Circuit Court Judge Dan Vaughn said he felt that felony battery was a lesser included crime and that count was dropped.

“The judge raised that concern and I did some research and determined the judge was correct,” said assistant state attorney Rob Moeller. “The cases I found suggested it was a lesser included crime of manslaughter. So, instead of giving two counts to the jury we just gave them manslaughter.”

Mr. Moeller said Reyna will be sentenced Thursday, May 26, at 10 a.m.

The six-member jury was apparently having trouble reaching a verdict in the case, but eventually came back with the guilty finding.

“I think they just decided to do a thorough job,” Mr. Moeller said. “They had a lot of facts to go through and a lot of instruction was given by the judge, as far as possible defenses. I think they just wanted to have a thorough discussion.”

Reyna was arrested in January of 2014 in connection with the Jan. 27, 2014, death of Gerardo Alvarez Manzo, 45.

A report by Officer Ryan Holroyd, of the Okeechobee City Police Department (OCPD), indicated the two men had been in the El Cielo Azul Bar at 706 S.W. Second St. That report quoted a witness who said they saw Mr. Manzo walking behind Reyna in the bar’s parking lot shortly after midnight.

For no apparent reason, continued that witness statement, Reyna turned around and hit the victim in the face. The older man fell backwards and struck the back of his head on the asphalt.

Officer Holroyd went on to state that when he arrived at the scene Mr. Manzo was bleeding from his nose and mouth and his breathing “… was very heavy and labored.”

At one point, continued the officer, the victim went into cardiac arrest and emergency medical personnel had to perform cardio pulmonary resuscitation  (CPR).

The victim was taken to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Fort Pierce by ambulance because he was too unstable to be airlifted, pointed out the officer’s report.

Mr. Manzo died later that day.

At one point, Reyna claimed he hit the older man in self defense. He reportedly said Mr. Manzo threatened to kill him.

But OCPD Detective Bill Saum said he had reservations about the self-defense claim. If Reyna was truly concerned that Mr. Manzo had a gun, the detective mused, why didn’t he notify police or someone in the bar?

“If he had, everyone would be alive today. But he never asked anyone for help so, apparently, he didn’t think it was too serious,” said the veteran investigator.

When asked for his thoughts on the jury’s verdict, Detective Saum simply replied: “Justice is served.”

It was also clear Mr. Moeller was not buying Reyna’s claim of self defense.

“To me, it clearly was not a case of self defense. He first denied being there.

Then, he denied throwing the punch. I don’t think the defendant was very credible,” said the prosecutor.

Because Reyna has been in the Okeechobee County Jail since the day of his arrest, he will receive credit for the amount of time he has served and that will come off his sentence. Although he is facing a maximum of 15 years, Reyna could receive less than that if Judge Vaughn so chooses.

Reyna was represented by Port St. Lucie defense attorney Adrienne M. Bucchi.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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