PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The jury handed out a split verdict Thursday in the trial of a man accused of beating another man to death with a two-by-four outside a Providence bar.
Jurors found Daniel Lastarza guilty of second-degree murder in the 2014 death of Jonathan Stack but acquitted him of the other charges in the case.
Prosecutors said Lastarza attacked Stack and another man outside the now-defunct $3 Bar in the city’s Federal Hill neighborhood.
The jury began deliberating Wednesday after both sides gave their closing arguments.
“Left dying, alone, with his skull in pieces, in the parking lot of a cheap bar,” said prosecutor Roger Demers. “And Daniel Lastarza wants you to give him a pass.”
According to the prosecution, the incident started as an argument over a junk car.
While on the stand, Lastarza admitted he and his friend, Chris Tucker, tried to defraud Stack by attempting to sell him a car they did not own.
Stack owned an auto salvage business in North Providence. Jerri Nassi, his employee, testified that an argument between Stack and Tucker began inside the bar and moved out into the parking lot.
Lastarza admitted to hitting Stack and Nassi, but maintained he was trying to save his friend’s life.
“I could hear with each blow, just the sound of a fist or something to the face,” Lastarza said while testifying in his own defense. “I didn’t think that I had struck him in a way that would kill him. And I was hoping that he didn’t – that he wasn’t dead.”
Video played during the trial shows Lastarza striking Nassi once and Stack twice with the wooden board.
Nassi claimed Lastarza tried to pin the murder on him once police arrived on scene.
“Dan Lastarza said, ‘this is the guy that did it, he’s covered in blood, he tried to kill that guy,’” he testified.
“He walked away…and he looked back at me and smiled and waved,” Nassi continued. “Like he was slick, he got away with something.”
Prosecutors questioned whether the incident was a coincidence – given that Lastarza’s son had accused Stack of assault two years prior.