Death over music called manslaughter

A Riverbank man accused of killing another man in an argument over loud music was convicted Monday of charges that could send him to prison for up to four years, but he was acquitted of the case's most serious accusations.

William Gibbs, 47, a nonprofit development official, was convicted of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and felony hit-and-run. He could get as little as probation.

Family and friends of the victim -- Mario Martinez, 25 -- sobbed and hugged prosecutor Nate Baker in the hallway after the verdicts were read. Martinez died two days after the May 2008 argument, his skull fractured in a fall from Gibbs' gold Lexus.

"At least they found (Gibbs) responsible for his actions," Baker said, noting the jury found Gibbs acted with negligence, but not a "reckless disregard for human life."

Martinez's mother, Ana Martinez, said she was relieved to hear the guilty verdicts.

"Thank God for justice," she said. "But my son will never come back."

Gibbs' attorney, Steve Foley, did not return a call seeking comment.

During the two-week trial, Baker said Martinez's body was found in a pool of blood 83 feet from the house where Gibbs first confronted Martinez and a friend about loud music coming from a truck. He said Gibbs hit Martinez with enough force to throw him onto the hood of his car, then the roof, as Martinez walked around the front bumper to confront Gibbs.

Foley countered that Gibbs was acting in self-defense, startled into action when a "very drunk, very angry" Martinez stormed Gibbs' car, climbing up the hood of his Lexus.

Gibbs took the stand during the last day of testimony. He said he washed the car after the collision because it was on his "honey-do" list, did not return to work near the Reseda Lane crime scene and did not call the police or tell his wife what happened.

He is scheduled to be sentenced July 13 in Stanislaus County Superior Court.

Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at or 578-2337.