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DL man guilty in Buckanaga murder case

Ronald Quiceno, 38, of Detroit Lakes has been found guilty of the murder of Travis Buckanaga.

The jury deliberated about two hours Tuesday afternoon before returning the guilty verdict. Quiceno was found guilty of four of the five counts he was charged with.

He was found guilty of second-degree murder with intent with the use of a firearm, second-degree murder without intent with the use of a firearm, assault in the second degree and prohibited person in possession of a firearm.

He was found not guilty of second-degree attempted murder. That charge stemmed from the shooting of Barris Guy, who had a non-life threatening gunshot wound to the neck.

The shooting took place Jan. 26 at Kountry Manor Mobile Home Park, located north of Detroit Lakes on County Road 21.

Family members of both Quiceno and Buckanaga, who were seated in the gallery, cried when the verdicts were read.

Guy was also allowed to be in the gallery for the verdict. He is serving time in the Becker County Jail.

Multiple members of law enforcement were inside and outside the courtroom and courthouse when the verdict was read. Judge Lisa Borgen asked those in the gallery to be respectful of each other and not to have any outbursts. There were none.

Borgen said Quiceno’s bail has been revoked until the time of his sentencing. A pre-sentence investigation will be held, and she said sentencing will not be held for at least 30-45 days.

As Quiceno was led out of the courtroom, he sobbed and said “love you” to his wife, who was seated a few feet behind him in the gallery. His sobs could be heard after he was escorted into the hallway and conference room outside of the courtroom.

Defense attorney Simon George said Wednesday that Quiceno “still maintains his innocence” and plans to appeal. The appeal process doesn’t start until after his sentencing though.

Quiceno takes the stand

Dressed in a dark, pin-striped suit, Quiceno took the stand Monday to tell his side of events during the morning of Jan. 26.

Defense attorney Simon George asked Quiceno about his background, his interests and his family. Quiceno’s twins turned 9 on Monday. He also has a stepson, 14, and two other children ages 11 and 10.

He and his family moved to Detroit Lakes in 2011, and he was employed at Holiday Inn as a server. He also did a few odds and ends projects on homes.

Quiceno said that he has had several injuries and was on prescription drugs for them. He said he was being treated for anxiety, herniated discs and a “busted” shoulder with Oxycontin and Suboxone, and he was on Adderall for ADHS, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Night of the shooting

Quiceno said he doesn’t really remember what he did on Jan. 25, the day before the shooting.

“I was pretty busy all the time,” he said from the witness seat.

He said he likely picked up his college textbooks that day. He had dinner with his family that night and called his friend, Houston Moorman, several times because Moorman was going to come stay the night at Quiceno’s house and they were going to rap together.

He said that he got to Moorman’s mobile home at Kountry Manor, and Moorman wanted to stop over at his friend’s house. Quiceno said he had never been to that house, and didn’t know the friend who lived there, Brad Bloom.

At the house Bloom was staying at, Lot 9, Quiceno said that Moorman told him to wait for him in the vehicle, but Quiceno came inside the trailer anyway. Quiceno said that Moorman was headed to the back of the house to get some marijuana.

Quiceno stayed in the front area of the trailer, where Buckanaga was located.

“I asked him if he had any talent,” Quiceno said.

The two men started rapping, with Buckanaga freestyling and Quiceno reading previously written lyrics off his phone. Quiceno said he started questioning Buckanaga on his lyrics, and the two got into a fight.

Quiceno testified that Buckanaga said he was native gangster, and Quiceno said he had met someone the night before that said he was native mob. Quiceno questioned the difference since they were all native.

Buckanaga then punched Quiceno in the face.

Quiceno said he then headed to the back of the house to get Moorman so they could leave. Moorman said he would be a minute, so Quiceno left the house alone. He said he went to start his van and it wouldn’t start at first, but finally started.

He said the van was also stuck because he pulled up too far into the snow.

“I just wanted to get out of there,” he said.

At that point, Barris Guy pulled up to the house, and though Quiceno had never met Bloom, he said that Bloom showed up at that point as well. Guy and Bloom invited him back into the house.

“The atmosphere was kind of confrontational,” Quiceno said.

He said he went back in because he “thought there was enough people there to stop anything bad from happening.”

He said he told Buckanaga that he wasn’t mad and didn’t want to fight. He said he offered his hand to Buckanaga, who did not take it. He said Buckanaga was mad at him for being back in the house, and everyone in the home was yelling back and forth. He testified that he didn’t really know what was being said either.

“Barris told me to get the (expletive) out and jabbed something in my belly,” Quiceno said.

He realized it was a pistol. He grabbed Guy’s wrist, pushed the gun upward, and a shot went off. Quiceno said that someone was grabbing him, and that something hit him in the side of the head in the struggle to get the gun.

Quiceno said he got the gun away from Guy.

“I saw Travis coming toward me and I aimed the pistol in his direction,” he said.

Asked if he fired the gun, he said, “I’m sure I fired shots.

“I just wanted people to get off me,” he said, crying.

Multiple times throughout the questioning, Quiceno broke down in tears while recounting the night.

He said he ran out the door after the shooting, got in his van and spun his tires until the vehicle got free of the snow. He said he heard more shots fired then. Allen Bloom Jr. also testified that he broke the passenger side windows out of Quiceno’s van.

During Becker County Attorney Mike Fritz’s cross examination, he asked how Buckanaga could have been coming at Quiceno, given the entry of the bullets in Buckanaga — evidence showed that one was in his right chest, two near the right armpit and two in the back.

He asked if Buckanaga was coming at him sideways. Quiceno said he wasn’t sure, but that Buckanaga had his arm raised like he was reaching for him.

After the shooting

Quiceno said he took a right onto County Road 21, or Richwood Road, out of the mobile home park to head back to Detroit Lakes, but soon took another right because he didn’t want to lead anyone who might follow him to his home.

He headed to Callaway instead to see his friend, Jon Moore, and ask him what to do.

Quiceno said he was afraid for his family. Moore checked Facebook, and it was then that Quiceno said he found out that Buckanaga had been shot.

“I didn’t even know anyone really got hit,” he said.

He said that Moore asked him for the gun, which he gave him, and then Moore told him to go home, which he also did.

“I didn’t know how to tell my wife what had happened,” he said, adding that he realized he might have to say goodbye to his family.

When he got into the house, he said he put all the clothing he had on into the washing machine. He said he doesn’t remember pouring bleach into the machine but could have.

He showered and went to bed, he said, to lay by his wife.

“I wanted to erase the whole night,” he said, crying again.

Realizing it was his gun

Quiceno said that when he drove his van into his garage that morning, he saw that his gun wasn’t hidden where it had previously been hidden in his garage.

He had tied a string around the holster to hang it from studs in the garage, but once a couple people had seen the gun, he said he then hid it in the rafters of the garage.

He said he didn’t want to keep it in the house because of his children.

Fritz asked Quiceno how he could hand over the gun to Moore that morning and not realize that it was his gun that had been used in the shooting. Quiceno said that he did realize it at that moment, but didn’t want to involve Moore any more, so never mentioned it to him.

Though no accusations were made, Quiceno said Moorman and Moore both knew he had the gun hidden in his garage because they had spent time in his garage. His garage was where be spent time working on his music.

Fritz questioned Quiceno how Guy got Quiceno’s gun in the first place. Quiceno said that he had a couple theories, but “not for certain.”

Explaining other items

The prosecution made a point that Quiceno had luggage with his clothing in it and some other items in the van. The items were on his seats, which were scattered with glass from the passenger side windows being broken from when he was leaving the scene of the shooting.

He said the reason the items were on top of the glass was because he had taken the items out of the van, was going to carry them into the house that morning, but then put them back in the van because he wanted to get into his house quicker.

Included in the items in the car was a black metal lockbox that contained birth certificates of all his children, his birth certificate and passport, his marriage certificate and the title to the van.

Quiceno said he carries those items with him always because he and his wife had previously been separated and she took the kids to Canada, where she is from. He said that she has been diagnosed bipolar and has since kept the documents with him.

“Everybody in my family knows that,” he said.

Who is lying?

Quiceno said that he lied to the police when he was first questioned because he “felt the cards were stacked against me from the get-go.”

On cross examination, Fritz said that Quiceno lied to police to get out of arrest.

“You’re on trial for murder,” Fritz said, “and you want us to believe your story?”

Twice during questioning, Quiceno told law enforcement that Moore wasn’t home when he drove to his house.

But Moore had been home and Quiceno had talked to him.

Moore and Josh Haugen, who was living with Moore in January, said that they saw Quiceno empty the used shell casings and throw them in the wood-burning furnace. Quiceno said that’s not what happened, though.

Fritz asked if Quiceno was saying they were both lying, and Quiceno said, “If that’s what the record reflects.”

Quiceno admitted to lying to law enforcement about purchasing the pistol from Eric Ortega, saying he never purchased it when in fact he had.

He also said he lied to law enforcement about where he went after the shooting, lied to Ortega about where he went after the shooting, and lied to Mel Manning about the fact that he was already home that morning and not on his way home like he had told Manning.

When Moorman testified at the start of the trial, he said that he and Quiceno smoked a joint at his house before going over to Bloom’s house. Quiceno said he never went into Moorman’s house that night and that what Moorman said wasn’t accurate.

Quiceno also denies that he wanted to purchase some drugs that night — mainly Dilaudid, as was brought up in testimony earlier.

Though Quiceno said he was attacked, he never called police to report that, Fritz said.

By morning, Quiceno knew that law enforcement was looking for him, and said that he planned to call police “at some point,” but just wanted to spend as much time as possible with his family.

While George questioned Quiceno on redirect, Quiceno said it was hard to remember all the details of the incident.

“I would give anything to bring him back and I’m sorry it happened,” he said, breaking down into sobs.

Closing arguments

Prosecution and defense gave their closing arguments Tuesday morning before handing the case to the jury for deliberation.

No new evidence was brought to light, but the two attorneys — Noah Cashman for the prosecution and Joe Parise for the defense — were able to make their arguments and put their “spin” on the case, as Borgen described.

“Guns don’t just show up,” Cashman said of Quiceno testifying that he didn’t bring his gun to the scene. “The gun showed up because the defendant brought it.”

The gun showed up “almost miraculously,” he added.

Cashman said that Quiceno’s actions that morning were not that of self-defense but rather of someone trying to hide a crime.

Throwing the holster out the window and putting his clothing and boots into a broken washer filled with bleach were ways to “dispose of the evidence. Why? He just murdered somebody.”

“If he had only kept going and left the trailer court,” Parise said of the first time Quiceno left the mobile home. Instead, Quiceno went back in and the shooting happened.

It’s not a crime to make poor decisions, he said.

Parise said that the case wasn’t about shots being fired or about the death of Buckanaga, because Quiceno admitted to shooting the gun at Buckanaga. He said what the case was about was self-defense for Quiceno.

Five of the six eyewitnesses in the mobile home that night said that Buckanaga was not advancing toward Quiceno. Kasey Burk, who was the only sober one, said that Buckanaga was coming toward Quiceno, Parise said.

“People’s recollection can be affected by alcohol and drugs,” he said. “How reliable and how credible is that information?”

Going to the credibility of the eyewitnesses, he also said that three of the six have prior convictions.

“Quiceno’s response was spontaneous,” Parise said, not thought out. “His conduct was one of survival.”

Cashman said the defense wanted to discredit the eyewitnesses for prior convictions and being under the influence that night, but the same things could be said of the defendant.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.