19-year-old faces life without parole for murder case over $100


A 19-year-old man may spend the rest of his life behind bars after a jury found him guilty of murder today. Ivan Ruiz was convicted of the murder of 18-year-old Michael Ballesteros.

This is a murder case with a scenario that shockingly isn’t all that uncommon for Kern County these days. It shows the ruthless violence of young men against other young men, ruinings so many lives in the process. 

Ivan Ruiz was just 17 years old when he met with 18-year-old Michael Ballesteros in an orchard off Breckenridge Road. The two teens planned to go target shooting. At one point-prosecutors say Ruiz asked Ballesteros to go fix the target. That’s when Ruiz opened fire on the real target he had in mind that day.

Prosecutor Richard Choi says it was all over $100 Ruiz owed Ballesteros for a gun he’d given him. 

“Instead of paying for it, he decided i’m gonna kill him for it.and he took the gun and shot him 10 times,” said Choi.

The brutality of the crime makes the killer’s young age even more unsettling.

“The autopsy showed the barrel of the gun was pressed to his skull twice and fired. It was up close and personal,” said Choi.

“My son never saw it coming. He was a beautiful kid. He was going through growing pains like everyone else but he was beautiful,” said Linda Soto, the mother of Ballesteros.

Ballesteros’ mother says since her son’s murder she’s met dozens of other families in the same position: “The pain is unexplainable and unbearable, so I would hope that everybody gets justice. It doesn’t bring back my baby, but it helps us try to put our lives back together.”

After Ruiz was found guilty of first-degree murder, Judge John Lua set a sentencing date that just happened to fall on Michael Ballasteros’ mother’s birthday. “They asked me if that was a problem-i said no, I think that it’ll be the best birthday present and i’m looking forward to it,” said Soto. 

Originally Ivan Ruiz was charged in juvenile court, but was later transferred. Ruiz was charged with two special circumstances and both were found true, but because he was a juvenile at the time he is not eligible for the death penalty. At his sentencing on November 6, the judge can either sentence him to 25 years to life-or life without the possibility of parole.

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