Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Diaz testifies in park death


David Diaz in an undated photo. (Photo: Courtesy Public Defender's office)
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The man accused of intentionally choking to death another man during a sexual encounter in Buena Vista Park in 2011 testified this week that he didn't tell police for several weeks because he was "scared."

David Munoz Diaz, 25, who spoke with police several times before his arrest weeks after the killing, testified during his trial this week that he didn't mean to kill Freddy Canul-Arguello, 23, and "Part of me wanted to be honest" with a homicide inspector "but I was also wrestling with myself whether to tell or not tell."

Diaz is charged with murder, arson, mutilating human remains, and destroying evidence in the death of Canul-Arguello, 23, whose burned, mostly naked body was found in the park just before 5 a.m. June 10, 2011. The medical examiner's office listed the cause of death as asphyxia due to strangulation.

Assistant District Attorney Danielle Douglas repeatedly got Diaz, who testified through a Spanish interpreter, to acknowledge that he had lied to police and others before his arrest.

In one exchange, Douglas asked him about an interview with police on July 22, 2011 the day he finally said what had happened and was arrested.

Police finally played 911 calls that he'd made just after Canul-Arguello died, in which Diaz talked about the fire and killing someone without identifying himself. Douglas asked Diaz if when he was confronted with the recordings he had implicated another person.

"Even after you were confronted with the 911 calls ... you still lied?" she said.

"Yes, and I did it because I was scared," Diaz testified.

He said he'd been drinking at the gay bar the Cafe and saw Canul-Arguello at La Tortilla taqueria after 2 a.m. the morning Canul-Arguello died.

They eventually decided to have sex and walked to Buena Vista Park. They stopped at different spots in the park and performed oral sex and other acts on each other, he testified. Canul-Arguello "told me he wanted me to penetrate him," he said, but he didn't because "we didn't have any condoms."

Canul-Arguello was giving Diaz head and asked him to choke him, he testified.

"He told me he liked it," Diaz told the court. "He said it excited him and he wanted to cum."

At first, Diaz declined, but he eventually agreed, and put his hands around Canul-Arguello's throat while Canul-Arguello was performing oral sex on him. He told Diaz it "hurt," stood up, got behind him, and showed him how to do it, Diaz said.

"He placed himself behind me and he crossed his arm covering my neck," Diaz testified, holding his right arm across his throat to demonstrate.

Diaz ended up standing behind Canul-Arguello, choking him while playing with his penis near his butt, as Canul-Arguello continued touching Diaz.

He asked to be choked "a little bit harder" and corrected Diaz more than once, Diaz testified.

Then, "at a certain point, he stopped moving," Diaz said. He let go of Canul-Arguello, who fell to the ground, and then tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate him.

"I was frightened," he said. "... I didn't know what to do. I was really nervous."

He said he lit a cigarette, then noticed a recycling bin, moved it close to where Canul-Arguello's body was, and lit a cup inside the bin to start a fire to signal for help. He pulled a fire alarm and made calls to 911 about the fire but didn't identify himself as the person who had just killed Canul-Arguello. He struggled over what to do and didn't go to greet firefighters when they arrived, instead going home.

Deputy Public Defender Alex Lilien asked Diaz how he felt about "the whole situation."

"Like shit," Diaz responded.

He said, "I think, what if I had said 'No' to Freddy? What if I had condoms? What if I had not gone out that night? I think about many things."

Early in his testimony, as Lilien asked him about his early childhood in Mexico, Diaz grinned, but his face was grim through more than a day on the witness stand. He sounded like he was choking up toward the end.

During his testimony, Diaz also described how Canul-Arguello had performed oral sex on him months before and they'd occasionally see each other around.

Kristin Marcos, an acquaintance of Canul-Arguello's, testified that Canul-Arguello had talked to her about getting choked during sex a few months before he died and asked if she thought it was "weird." She said she told him it wasn't.

Douglas didn't present a clear motive for the death during her opening statements late last month. Closing arguments are expected by early next week.

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