A 24-year-old Minneapolis man received an automatic life sentence Friday after a Hennepin County District Court jury found him guilty of killing a Brooklyn Center man, burning his body and leaving it beside a dumpster in south Minneapolis.
After a nine-day trial, the jury deliberated less than an hour late Thursday before convicting Manuel Guzman of first-degree murder in the August 2014 death of Rufino Clara-Rendon, 31.
A victim’s advocate from the Hennepin County attorney’s office read impact statements from Clara-Rendon’s brother and ex-wife, the mother of his 9-year-old daughter, both of whom described him as a happy, hardworking man who sent money to his parents and was saving to take his daughter on a visit to Mexico. “It is the most horrible, heartbreaking thing I could ever imagine,” the ex-wife wrote.
Guzman declined to say anything before Judge Daniel Mabley sentenced him to life in prison.
According to the criminal complaint, on the evening of Aug. 7, 2014, Minneapolis firefighters were called to a dumpster fire in the 39th Street alley between Snelling and Minnehaha Avenues. When they arrived, they found Clara-Rendon’s scorched body by the dumpster. He was not immediately identified, but release of an image of a tattooed cross on his body led to his identification.
During the trial, witnesses testified to hearing a gunshot in a bathroom in Guzman’s south Minneapolis home. Testimony established that Guzman and co-defendant Guillermo Ayala-Enriquez, 22, of Minneapolis, accused Clara-Rendon of being an informant. The two men had recently committed a drug robbery and accused Clara-Rendon of naming the robbers to the victim, according to authorities.
A surveillance video from a SuperAmerica store showed Guzman buying two cans of gasoline not long before the victim’s body was doused with gasoline and lit on fire.
Ayala-Enriquez is scheduled to go on trial May 18.