SAGUACHE — After deliberating for several hours, a jury empaneled to decide the fate of Charles M. Gonzales in the death of Michael D. Rust in 2009 returned a verdict at 1:20 p.m. Thursday afternoon of guilty on all counts.
Once the guilty verdict was delivered, Judge Jane Tidball sentenced Gonzales to two life sentences without the possibility of parole, to run concurrently (both at the same time), on first-degree murder without deliberation and first-degree felony murder.
She also sentenced Gonzales to 12 years for burglary, 18 months for tampering with evidence and 12 months for both theft and abuse of a corpse, to run concurrently in county jail.
The jury was polled at the request of public defender Amanda Hopkins and all affirmed without hesitation they voted to convict Gonzales of murder and the other crimes he was charged with.
12th Judicial District Attorney Crista Newmyer-Olsen commented following the verdict: ”I am very glad the Rust family finally found justice and closure.”
Public defender Hopkins said Gonzales is a person too and he has “family, children, grandchildren who love him” and his family, like the Rusts has also been “haunted by this for the last eight years. Hopefully they can heal too.” Hopkins confirmed later that Gonzales would be appealing his conviction.
Michael Rust’s sister, Mary Anne Crandall, told Judge Tidball: “The time for regret is long past. Charles Gonzales is a gang member wannabe, an evil murderer who has never taken responsibility. My parents both died without knowing what happened to their son. Two brothers died before Mike; we are no strangers to sorrow.” Crandall said Gonzales’ only place is in prison for life.
Charles Gonzales apologized to the Rust family saying, “I didn’t mean to hurt him. I am sorry for what happened to his body — that was a horrible thing to do. I will pray for the Rust family.” He indicated, however, that he did not feel the verdict was a fair one.
“The system does work,” Saguache County Sheriff Dan Warwick commented following the verdict. “Sometimes it takes longer than any of us feel it should but it does come around and do what it was intended to do.”
Warwick said he wants the public to know that this case was solved “thanks to the perseverance of Deputy Wayne Clark in moving things forward. After that it became a group effort.” Had greater effort been expended early on in the case, Warwick remarked, he feels Gonzales could have been apprehended sooner.
Gonzales will be returned to prison on Friday. Warwick said.