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Alleged Killers of Pastor’s Son's Trial Delayed

The trial of three men accused in the stabbing death at a Temecula bar was put off for six months.

The trial of three men charged in the stabbing death of a pastor’s son in a Temecula bar was delayed for six months.

Judge Timothy F. Freer decided to postpone the trial until August due to scheduling problems with the attorneys. The last day for a trial is set for Aug. 18.

The attorneys are set to meet on June 10 to make sure they’re “prepared and ready to go,” said Joshua Knight, one of the defendant’s attorneys.

San Diego residents Matthew Alexis Basler, 32, Marvin Justin Black, 27, and James Wing Fung, 32, pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, attempted murder, assault and dissuading a witness with a sentence enhancement for using a deadly weapon, court records show.

The suspects allegedly killed Ryan Armstrong, 22, and tried to kill his friend, Joel Ross, in an alley behind E.T.’s Bar in Temecula.

Armstrong was the son of Ron Armstrong, the senior pastor at Cornerstone Community Church in Wildomar. Ross, who was injured in the incident, is the son of Hugh Ross, a creationist author and public speaker.

The fight that led to Armstrong’s death started over a glass of beer, a witness testified during a hearing last year.

The three defendants were playing pool with some female friends near the victims and their group of friends when somebody in the defendants’ group found a beer on one of the pool tables. The person got angry and placed the beer in a woman’s purse, testified Lauren Grove, who was in the defendants' group.

The owner of the purse was one of Armstrong’s friends, and her boyfriend exchanged words with the defendants. The discussion got heated, so Armstrong stepped in to smooth things over. Through the evening, he went over to the defendants’ group several times to ensure they had no hard feelings, Grove testified.

Later that night, Basler grabbed Armstrong and pulled him outside, but other people broke them up before a fight started. As Basler drove away from the bar with his friends, he pulled into the alley and found Armstrong. The three men jumped out and they started fighting, the witness said.

The men ran back to the car and Grove drove the truck away, leaving Armstrong limping in the parking lot, she said.

Days later, a mysterious woman called Grove and warned her not to go to the police. She thought she heard Basler and Fung’s voices in the background, she testified.

The problem with the attorneys’ schedules should be resolved by August, they agreed in a hearing today.

Fung’s attorney, Karen Lockhart, is involved in another trial, and lawyers are allowed to participate in only one trial at a time. A vacation will stop William Wolfe, Basler’s attorney, from being available in June, he said.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article identified the victim as Joshua Armstrong. His name was actually Ryan Armstrong.

City News Service contributed to this report.

Carol Galvin March 06, 2011 at 12:07 AM
If this could just be over! The Armstrong family has suffered an unimaginable loss and to see the trial drag out so long is horrific!
Jamie March 28, 2011 at 04:00 PM
Ryan was a good friend of my son's for a few years and it would have been just like him to make an effort as a peacemaker in this crazy situation at the sports bar. I still remember his happy smile. He was a sweet guy, a good friend to my son, and a great young man. My heart hurts to think of this loss in our world. I'm sure that he's making heaven brighter, though we miss him dearly here. My love goes to the family as I can only imagine the grief they continue to experience even though I know it is mixed with comfort and peace from God...Ryan will not be forgotten.

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