Trial ordered in park killing
A San Francisco judge has held the man accused of strangling another man to death in Buena Vista Park last year to stand trial on murder and other charges.
However, Superior Court Judge Bruce Chan said Monday, November 19 that there wasn't enough evidence to sustain an additional accusation that David Munoz Diaz, 23, had robbed the victim, Freddy Canul-Arguello, 23. Canul-Arguello's burned, mostly naked body was found with a partially melted recycling bin early in the morning of June 10, 2011.
Robbery has been the only motive Assistant District Attorney Heather Trevisan has suggested in the killing, which Deputy Public Defender Alex Lilien has called "a terrible accident."
Near the conclusion of the preliminary hearing Monday, Trevisan told Chan that it hadn't been disputed that Diaz took Canul-Arguello's cell phone and wallet, and she said there hadn't been an opportunity for anyone else to have taken those and other items.
Trevisan said that Diaz took Canul-Arguello to the park, killed him, robbed him, stuffed his body in the recycling bin, and set him on fire.
"The murder was done to facilitate this taking," she said. She also said that Diaz had been "repeatedly shown to be lying" and "minimizing" his actions.
Responding to questions from Lilien Monday, police homicide Inspector Daniel Dedet said, "To be quite honest, I don't know the motive" for the killing.
At the beginning of the two-day hearing late last month, Dedet said that to his knowledge, Canul-Arguello's messenger bag, boots, wallet, and phone haven't been recovered.
Dedet also testified at the time that Diaz had claimed he choked Canul-Arguello after the victim asked him to during a sexual encounter. Then, after Canul-Arguello collapsed, he lit the blue bin on fire in order to signal for help, and rolled it down hill, where it fell on top of him. The medical examiner's office determined the cause of death to be asphyxia due to strangulation.
There's no evidence to support the defense claim that Diaz and Canul-Arguello had had consensual sex just before Canul-Arguello died, Trevisan said.
Much of Dedet's testimony was also about how Diaz made calls to 911 from Canul-Arguello's phone. Monday, Dedet indicated that the last call from the victim's phone was intended to make it sound like someone was targeting Canul-Arguello because he was gay.
Diaz, who's in custody, didn't testify during the hearing, but he sat beside Lilien and listened to testimony through a Spanish interpreter.
Also Monday, Larry Metzger, who owns the Castro area Mix bar, testified that he and Diaz had been dating just before the killing and had been living together at the time. He said Diaz had gone to the nearby Cafe nightclub the night before Canul-Arguello's body was found, and he couldn't recall exactly when he'd first seen Diaz after that.
He told Trevisan, "I didn't notice anything different" about Diaz's demeanor once he did see him, and Diaz hadn't told him that he'd killed Canul-Arguello.
"I never discussed this with him," Metzger said.
Besides the murder charge, Chan also held Diaz to answer on felony counts of arson, mutilating/maiming/disfiguring a body, and a misdemeanor count of destruction of evidence.
Diaz is next set to appear in court December 4 for arraignment.