A Weldon man whose 2013 murder conviction was overturned after an appellate court ruled the trial judge committed prejudicial error in refusing to allow a hearsay witness statement into evidence was sentenced Tuesday to 11 years in prison in the beating death of his estranged girlfriend's boyfriend.

Danny Leon Mathis, 56, will receive credit for time served and has roughly 2 1/2 years left in state prison, his lawyer said afterward. Mathis pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter last month. 

Defense lawyer Greg Mitts said after sentencing that Mathis killed 22-year-old Ruben Torres in self-defense. There were witnesses to the incident, but in the intervening six years they've "scattered to the four winds," he said.

Mitts said he made a motion to dismiss the case due to violation of due process since it's not Mathis' fault the witnesses can no longer be found, and he believes if Mathis had been convicted at a second trial the conviction would have again been overturned.

Prosecutor Gina Pearl was "very reasonable" in reaching a plea agreement in the case, Mitts said. The 11-year prison term is a good result considering Mathis had previously been serving 25 years to life, he said. 

Pearl said she felt the voluntary manslaughter plea was appropriate after a review of the evidence and the appellate court decision. 

While Mitts found the new sentence reasonable, the family of Torres said in a letter read to the court that the "horrible, despicable" Mathis should never see the outside of a prison. The letter, read by a victim advocate with the District Attorney's Office, described how terrified Torres must have been as Mathis pummeled him to death.

"Ruben was far from an angel, but did he deserve to die this way?" the letter said. "No, he didn't."

Mathis killed Torres on Jan. 29, 2012, bound him with rope and stuffed him in the trunk of a car. He was on his way to get rid of the body when the car broke down, according to court documents.

The car was towed to a friend's house, where the body was discovered a couple of days later. 

Questioned at the Kern County Sheriff's Kern Valley substation, Mathis admitted to killing Torres but said it was in self-defense, according to court documents. 

He told investigators his ex-girlfriend, Chasidy Wilhite, had called him to her home to "slap Torres around" because he was stealing from her. But when Mathis showed up, Torres confronted him with a shotgun, according to Mathis' statement in the documents. 

Mathis said he "freaked out" upon having a gun pointed at him, and beat Torres more severely than he'd intended, killing him. 

Convicted the following year of first-degree murder, Mathis had faced the prospect of spending the rest of his life behind bars until the 5th District Court of Appeal overturned his conviction in 2016.

In its ruling, the appellate court said Mathis' public defender had wanted to introduce testimony from a man who was the "on-and-off lover" of Chasidy Wilhite. That man, Jose Pineda, was prepared to testify that Wilhite had told him she set up and assisted in the killing of Torres. 

The trial judge refused to allow Pineda's testimony into evidence, and the appellate court said the judge applied the wrong legal standards in denying it. 

"It is reasonably probable the outcome of the proceedings would have been more favorable to (Mathis), if Pineda's testimony, as set forth in the defense's offer of proof, was presented to the jury," the court wrote in its decision.

(4) comments

Janet

How and in what country were murder is against the law does a cold blooded killer walk !!! This is outrageous !!! DANNY MATHIS BEAT RUBEN TORRES PUT A ROPE AROUND HIS NECK PUT HIM IN THE TRUNK OF A CAR IN THE MIDDLE OF SUMMER WHEN ITS WELL OVER 100° AND LEFT BIM TO DIE A HORRIBLE DEATH ! RUBEN MAY HAVE BEEN OVER 18 BUT HE WAS JUST A YOUNGSTER STILL, HE WAS CALLED BY MATHIS GIRLFRIEND TO COME THEIR TO HELP HER AND NO ONE IS HURT EXCEPT RUBEN ! WHO IS FOUND BY ACCIDENT, BY FATE AFTER. MATHIS TRYS HIDING HIS BODY IN THE TRUNK! IAM SO HURT FOR RUBENS FAMILY AND FOR ALL OF US THAT WATCHED HIM GROW UP HERE FROM A YOUNG BOY! ITS NOT FORGOTTEN WHAT HAPPENED, WHO NEEDS A WITNESS THEY KNOW HE DANNY MATHIS MURDERED REUBEN AND PUT HIM IN THE TRUNK BARLEY ALIVE TO COOK TO DEATH ! IT HURTS THAT HE WILL BE FREE TO EAT CHEESEBURGERS AND GO ANYWERE HE WANTS SOON,HIS MOTHER WILL NEVER BE FREE OF THIS NOR WILL HIS FATHER AND BROTHER AND SISTERS!!! I LOVED THAT KID,I DONT FORGIVE YOU MATHIS, YOU DIDNT CALL FOR HELP IN NEED OF SELF-DEFENSE AND YOU TORTURED REUBEN, YOU DIDNT JUST KILL HIM ! YOU ARE WHAT NIGHTMARES ARE MADE OF !!! IM SPEAKING OUT ! THIS IS WRONG!

Kelly Holcomb

The "Witness" was going to say it was a calculated planned thing.....I don't understand how that would be a benefit for Mathis!! It contradicts the original story that it was "self defense" ....but more along the side of truth, that this was a cold calculated plan which Wilhite and Mathis conspired to kill Reuben.......which would make them both guilty of murder 1, and both eligible for the death penalty!! Seems the biggest injustice of all that the cops and the judge, and the prosecutor once again didn't do their jobs.......!! This is Justice???? They said "witnesses"?? But there was only 1 mentioned?? Unless you want to include BOTH of the guilty parties who had ample time to make up whatever story they wanted to!!! Come on!?? WHERE IS THE JUSTICE HERE??? I would like to hear the opinion of Youngblood?? I surely don't feel safe........DO YOU???!!!

Lost428

What a bunch of b.s. he deserves to do 25 like every other murderer out there! Kern county is crooked as f#$!×

Janet

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