BILLINGS - The Busby man accused of strangling and burning a Crow Agency woman last year was convicted Thursday of murder after a week-long trial that revealed the horrific details of the victim's assault that led to her death.
A jury found Dimarzio Sanchez, 20, guilty of first-degree murder aiding and abetting for the death of Roylynn RidesHorse.
The jury could have convicted Sanchez of second-degree murder, a step down from first-degree murder because it does not require intent.
But the jury agreed with prosecutors that Sanchez had to complete at least three steps -- getting the gas can from the trunk, dousing the victim, and lighting the fire -- to kill RidesHorse, and he could have stopped at any point during that process. He will be sentenced in March.
Prosecutors described Sanchez in their closing arguments as the "ringleader," saying he intentionally carried out the brutal assault that led to the victim's death two months later.
Defense attorneys characterized Sanchez as a bystander and said his co-defendants, Angelica Whiteman and Frank Sanchez, were the two killers.
Trixy Phelan, the victim's sister, called the jury's verdict justice.
"Today we rejoice with her, we know that she's in the heavenly realm with our father and we rejoice with her that justice was served today,"said Phelan. "Roylynn was sweet, innocent, a mother, daughter, sister. She was a caregiver, she loved everyone. She didn't have an enemy."
Investigators revealed at the trial that the victim didn't know her attackers before the night they assaulted her.
They met at the Kirby Saloon, where RidesHorse had just gotten into an argument with her husband before she encountered Whiteman at the bar.
When RidesHorse told her about the argument, Whiteman testified that she gave RidesHorse a hug and told her she could give her a ride home to Crow Agency.
The victim got into the vehicle with Whiteman, the Sanchez brothers and three other passengers.
"She gets into that car absolutely not realizing that she's getting into the death zone," said Lori Suek, the prosecutor, in her closing argument.
After dropping one of the passengers off at home, Whiteman initiated a fight with the victim over a supposed dirty look.
Whiteman told Sanchez, who was driving, to turn the vehicle around. He drove the car to Castlerock Road, a dirt road in a remote area on the Crow Indian Reservation.
Witnesses testified that RidesHorse was pulled out of the car beaten.
After the victim was strangled, Dimarzio Sanchez instructed Frank Sanchez to retrieve a gas can from the trunk.
RidesHorse was stripped naked and set on fire in a field, where she left to die.
The victim was discovered 14 hours later by a rancher, who summoned for help.
RidesHorse was ultimately transferred to the Salt Lake City burn unit, where she died from her injuries two months later.
Whiteman pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting first-degree murder in August and her sentencing has been set for January. She faces up to life in prison.
Frank Sanchez pleaded guilty in March to deliberately concealing a felony and accessory after the fact. His sentencing is scheduled January.