Man who fatally pushed elderly man into freight train sentenced

By Gina Yarbrough

San Diego, CA–A man was sentenced Thursday to 15 years to life for randomly pushing an elderly man into a freight train at the Old Town Transit Station in San Diego, prosecutors said.

Superior Court Judge Rachel Cano handed down the sentence to 27-year-old Ryan Rukstelis for the unprovoked attack.

The victim, 68-year-old Martin Andara, was on his way to work at Ralph’s supermarket in Pacific Beach at around 6 a.m. on New Year’s Day in 2022. After exiting the trolley and walking toward a connecting bus at the station, Rukstelis is seen on surveillance video walking ahead of Andrar then slowing and stopping to wait until he is even with the victim. Rkstelis suddenly attacked Andara for no reason, punching him and pushing him directly into a freight train that was moving past them. The victim suffered severe head trauma causing almost immediate death.

“This random, chilling attack took the life of a man who was loved by his family, friends, and colleagues, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said in a news release. “It is a tragic case that was solved by excellent police work and brought to justice by the Elder Abuse Unit In our office.”

According to the DA’s Office, police analyzed surveillance footage at various train stations throughout the county and determined that Rukstelis was at a trolley station in Mission Valley hours before the fatal attack earlier that morning. The footage captured him attempting to remove a broken front panel of a vending machine. Fingerprints were lifted from the inside of the machine panel, matching those of Rukstelis. Investigators arrested him three days after the attack. 

Rukstelis pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on June 30 in court. The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Scott Pirrello.

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