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April 6, 2009

Trial opens in murder of Walnut Creek man who was trying to protect his mom from intruder

It’s a sad coincidence, but last week I was driving in my neighborhood and pulled up to a stoplight behind a white GMC pickup.

I couldn’t help but notice the rear window of the cab. The owner had decorated the window with the words, in white letters, “In Loving Memory Joshua Dustyn Rhoads.” Besides the words was the silhouette of a helmeted guy on a dirtbike.

On Monday, the trial started for the man charged with killing 25-year-old Joshua Rhoads (pictured here).


Rhoads was killed on March 20, 2008 in the home he lived in with his family off Boulevard Way in the Saranap neighborhood. That's not too far from where I live, so I suppose that's why I saw the white pickup with the tribute to Rhoads' memory.

Rhoads' accused killer is Nathan Media, 43, of Martinez. Medina is facing life imprisonment, and is charged with fatally wounding Rhoads and with attempting to kill Rhoads’ mother Beverly “Sam” Rhoads.

As reported by the Contra Costa Times, prosecutor Steve Moawad said Monday during the trial's opening statements that Rhoads’ family had been friends with Medina’s family for more than 20 years.

But things between the two families grew contentious when Beverly Rhoads hired a construction company, belonging to Medina’s stepfather, to build an addition to her home. According to the Times, Moawad said:

When more than a year passed, and the proposed four-month project was still unfinished, Rhoads hired another contractor. ... She also filed a civil suit against Medina's stepfather to recover the money she lost. Medina, who had done the electrical work on the Rhoads' addition, took it upon himself to resolve the issue. …

Medina cut off the electricity for the Rhoads’ home, then broke into the house, and sprayed Beverly Rhoads in the eyes with pepper spray. She and her son, Joshua, sought shelter in the laundry room, and Joshua barricaded himself at the door between his mother and the intruder.


The gunman then opened fire, fatally wounding Joshua Rhoads. ...

Beverly Rhoads, hiding behind a pile of clothes, managed to call 911, and whisper into the phone: “It’s Nathan Medina. … He murdered my son. … He doesn't know I'm here. Please help me."

Medina broke the laundry-room door in half, reached inside and shot Joshua twice in the head. ... Medina was still searching for Beverly Rhoads when he shot at a Rhoads family friend who lived in a backyard cottage.


Medina’s defense attorney claims that it wasn’t Medina who broke into the house that day. In fact, attorney Dirk Manoukian said that Beverly Rhoads misidentified Medina as the gunman.

The Times furthermore says:

Beverly Rhoads only got a glimpse of the intruder before she was blinded by the pepper spray. She saw so little of the gunman, she couldn't tell police whether he was wearing a mask, Manoukian said. Though she was close to Medina's family, she had not seen Medina in more than four years. The misidentification of the killer, in turn, poisoned the police investigation against Medina, whom Manoukian said, was wrongly accused by Beverly Rhoads for an incident of vandalism at the house weeks before the killing.

All of the witnesses who identified Medina as the intruder after the killing had been led to do so during police questioning. No physical or DNA evidence that pointed to Medina was found at the crime scene, Manoukian said, but police never investigated avenues unrelated to Medina because of Rhoads' assertion that he was the killer.

Whatever happens with Medina’s trial, Rhoads’ death was a devastating blow to his family and friends. Rhoads was a native and lifelong resident of Walnut Creek who attended Las Lomas High School and graduated from Del Oro High School in 2001.

In his obituary, loved ones described him as a "kind-hearted and gentle young man" who had a deep love for his family and enjoyed spending time outdoors with his friends riding dirt bikes, rock crawling, jet skiing, and snowboarding.

Joshua was also well-known for his creativity and his ability to work with his hands and build things “from the ground up.”

"Josh was the love of my life, my best friend, and my confident,” wrote Joanna Katz, on his online guestbook on the Contra Costa Times. “I could tell him anything and I knew that he would always be there for me. His family accepted me into their lives as one of their own. I have never felt so much love from one person and I know that he is up in Heaven feeling all the love that everyone is sharing down here on Earth. I was lucky enough to have him for two years!!! Josh: Remember when you told me that dying was your biggest fear? Well, I guess in the face of your fear you went out like such a MAN. I'm so proud of you.”

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Please post if you have a update on the trial?

This sad story is not covered in the press..

Soccer Mom said...

Hello,
I'll try to do my best. Unfortunately, I have a day job, so I have to be there, and I can't get to the trial. I would be there, if I could. Therefore, I have to rely on what's in the press, which as you said, is not covering it. If there is anyone among Joshua's friends or family, who are attending the trial, and feel that they can send in updates, I would be honored to publish them. And they can do so anonymously.
I agree, it is a sad story, and when I read about how he tried to shield his mom from the shooter, my heart breaks for her. From reading his obituary and comments on the online guest books, I can see that he a lot of friends and family who cared about him.