Hearing set for man accused in Mecca hate-crime death

Brother: Juan was bringing home dinner for the family when he was shot

MECCA, Calif. - A Sept. 5 preliminary hearing was scheduled Monday for a Thermal resident accused of killing a 20-year-old man because of his sexual orientation.

Miguel Angel Bautista Ramirez, 25, of Thermal was arrested July 28 in Coachella for the deadly shooting of Juan Ceballos in Mecca on July 13.

Ramirez is being held without bail. A bail hearing that was scheduled to be held Tuesday was postponed to Sept. 5.

The criminal complaint filed July 30 charging Ramirez with murder includes a hate crime allegation that Ramirez killed Ceballos "because of a bias against the victim's sexual orientation." An amended complaint was filed Aug. 1 with broader language that includes sexual orientation, disability, nationality and race.

Ramirez also faces a special circumstance allegation of lying in wait and committing a hate crime. He is potentially eligible for the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole if convicted.

News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2's Laura Yanez sat down with the Ceballos family. They say Juan was the son of a farm worker and the eldest of five children. Ceballos was bisexual, according to his 17-year-old brother Sergio Ceballos. The College of the Desert student worked two jobs, one at TA of America gas station and at Pizza Hut.

His brother, Sergio, told Yanez that Juan was bringing home pizza dinner for his family when he was shot in the front yard.

"He was coming home from work. He had pizza," said Sergio. "He was messaging me. As soon as he parked it happened."

Hear more from the family here.

The Riverside County District Attorney's Office is not commenting about the facts of the case or a possible motive for the killing, spokesman John Hall said.

Riverside County sheriff's deputies were called to the 65-000 block of Dale Kiler Road in Mecca shortly before midnight July 13 and found Ceballos with several gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead at the scene, sheriff's Sgt. Jim Erickson said.

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