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Jury finds 24-year-old man not guilty of six charges in connection with burglary last year at Willmar home

WILLMAR -- A 24-year-old Willmar man was found not guilty Thursday of six charges stemming from an October incident that included allegedly entering a Willmar home, brandishing a weapon at the residents and using landscaping blocks to smash a vehicle.

The verdicts, reached by a 12-person jury in Kandiyohi County District Court, acquitted Alberto Espinoza of felony charges of first-degree burglary, second-degree assault, aiding and abetting first-degree damage to property and a misdemeanor charge of fifth-degree assault.

He was one of three people in the case. Sara Edith Rojas, 23, of Willmar, was sentenced Feb. 27 to 10 years of probation and a $1,000 fine on a charge of second-degree burglary. She was ordered to serve 116 days in jail -- with credit for 116 days served -- ordered to pay $4,152.49 in restitution, write an apology letter and be law abiding.

Seven felony charges for burglary, assault and criminal damage to property against John Ruben Garcia, 20, of Willmar were dismissed Dec. 3 by the prosecutor.

The charges were filed after county dispatch received a report of a burglary in progress around 1:37 a.m. Oct. 3 along 14th Street Southeast.

A Willmar police officer arrived and saw a woman running to a sport utility vehicle in the driveway. Officers interviewed a number of people at the scene and they learned that five people lived at the home.

Two others had arrived from work and were followed into the driveway by the SUV.

The witnesses said Espinoza got out of the vehicle, started an altercation with a man who lived there, punched him and then left when the man ignored him.

The witnesses said Espinoza, Rojas and Garcia returned 10 to 15 minutes later and entered through the front door of the home.

Two men said Espinoza pointed a handgun at them, demanded to see the man he had just assaulted and threatened to shoot them.

Witnesses said that when the three left, they smashed the windows of the car parked in the driveway.

The officers examined the car, owned by a woman living at the home, and found that large retaining wall blocks had been thrown through the windows. A block had also been thrown on the hood. An estimate showed $4,152.49 in damages.

An officer examined the SUV and found an airsoft-style weapon, bearing the markings of a .40-caliber handgun.

There was also a holster and a magazine in the vehicle.