A Pizza Hut delivery man in California is standing trial for murdering a gay coworker because of his sexual orientation, after a judge initially ruled him as mentally competent.
Miguel Angel Bautista Ramirez, 27, faces first-degree murder charges stemming from the July 2014 shooting of 20-year-old Juan Ceballos (pictured above) in Mecca, California.
Coworkers reported Ramirez was obsessed with whether or not Ceballos was gay, and often used anti-gay slurs in reference to the victim. “Anyone who talked to Juan knew that he was [gay],” testified supervisor Liana Pena. The two drivers were once caught in the dishwashing area of the restaurant, with Ramirez brandishing a pocket knife and Ceballos an taser.
The night of the shooting, surveillance camera footage showed a truck similar to Ramirez’s following Ceballos’s sedan to and from a gas station. Later, Ceballos texted his brother from outside his house, telling him to come and meet him. As his brother went to the window, he saw a man walk up to the car, point a shotgun in the driver’s side and fire twice
Ramirez was arrested after a search of his home uncovered a receipt for a shotgun (though the murder weapon was never found). The case was suspended last November when the judge ordered Ramirez’s mental state be assessed.
Juan Ceballos was the son of a farm worker and the eldest of five children and a student at The College of the Desert. Juan worked two jobs, one at TA of America gas station and at Pizza Hut. “He was coming home from work. He had pizza,” said Sergio Ceballos, Juan’s brother.. “He was messaging me. As soon as he parked it happened.”
Because the case qualifies as a hate crime, Ramirez faces life imprisonment without the hope of parole. Prosecutors chose not to purse the death penalty.
Ramirez is due back in court March 13.