Defense Accuses Dead B.A.R. Writer of Sexual Attack
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The attorney for the man accused of fatally strangling former Bay Area Reporter writer Dan Aiello is claiming that his client, Kyle Billy Fletcher, had been "in fear of a sexual assault," and Fletcher "was defending himself."
Attorney Justin Mixon made his comments to the B.A.R. last week just after Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael G. Bowman ordered Fletcher, 38, to stand trial on first-degree murder and other charges.
Aiello, 53, was found dead in his home April 15, 2015 with a belt wrapped around his neck. According to police testimony during the Wednesday, October 4 preliminary hearing, Fletcher claimed Aiello, who was on the floor, had wrapped a belt around his own neck and tried to force Fletcher into having sex with him. According to court testimony, the two had known each other for years and Aiello was upset that Fletcher had never had sex with him.
Mixon said Fletcher had "used enough force to stop the attack" by grabbing the belt. "... He didn't think he hurt him or killed him."
But police, who testified Wednesday that they'd discovered Aiello's naked body after seeing Fletcher carrying a TV from Aiello's home, didn't indicate that Fletcher had said anything about having just defended himself against a violent attack.
Officer Filmore Graham said that when police responded to a disturbance at about 3:30 a.m. at 1326 X Street, where Aiello lived behind his small Midtown Moped shop, he saw Fletcher carrying a flat screen TV and a woman who was also carrying something.
Fletcher, who "was really sweaty," even though "it was really cold outside," said, "This is my shop. My partner and I own it," Graham testified, adding that Fletcher had said "Dan" was "in the back lying down."
Officer Tony Parham, who'd also responded to the scene, testified that Fletcher seemed "very nervous."
Moments later, Graham and Parham found Aiello in his bedroom, lying face down on the floor with a belt "wrapped around his neck," said Graham, who added there had been a possible shoeprint on his back. Aiello was soon pronounced dead.
Sergeant Jason Kirtlan, who was a homicide detective at the time Aiello was killed, said that during an interview that morning, Fletcher told him that Aiello had repeatedly paid him for sex acts during the four years they'd known each other.
Aiello, who was gay, worked for the B.A.R. as a freelance writer who covered marriage equality and other issues before opening the moped shop.
On the night Aiello died, Aiello had swallowed capfuls of GHB, and Fletcher had drunk some, too. Then, Aiello got naked on the floor, wrapped a belt around his neck, and raised his butt "in the air," according to Kirtlan's account of the interview.
Fletcher started walking on Aiello's back to massage him, which was something they'd done before, said Kirtlan.
Soon, Aiello was on the floor snoring, and Fletcher walked out with the TV and digital video recorder, which he said were his, Kirtlan testified.
Fletcher "denied even touching" the belt at first, said Kirtlan, but Fletcher's claim of not touching the belt changed.
Fletcher said that while he was on Aiello's back, Aiello grabbed his feet and pulled him down, Kirtlan testified. Fletcher, who knew that Aiello had AIDS and was afraid of contracting it, had to grab the belt in order to stay upright.
"Mr. Aiello became aggressive and took him to the ground. They were wrestling," and Fletcher used the belt to stay away from Aiello, said Kirtlan.
At some point, Aiello also started to undo Fletcher's pants, Kirtlan testified that Fletcher had told him.
Aiello had methamphetamine and GHB in his system when he died, according to attorneys in the case and court testimony.
The Sacramento County Coroner's office determined the cause of death was strangulation.
Kirtlan said that Fletcher's phone contained over 17,000 text messages between the two men, the "majority" of which had come from Aiello, who was "not happy" that Fletcher was dating women.
The texts showed that Aiello, who thought of Fletcher as "a god," had said, "I've been waiting four years to get it from you," and "I know I will never get raped by the perfect dick but the rest of these bitches can," Kirtlan confirmed in his testimony.
Aiello had paid Fletcher "up to $20 per act" for "sexual gratification," Fletcher told Kirtlan. He also told Kirtlan that he had used Aiello as "a farm animal" and "he would put a leash on him and walk him like a dog," Kirtlan testified.
Fletcher's phone had also contained several graphic videos and photos, including a video of "a stream of urine going into Mr. Aiello's mouth," Fletcher said "it was him," said Kirtlan.
A photo showed Aiello's scrotum tied with vice grips and a white strap, which Fletcher said he'd placed there.
Kirtlan testified that the texts also showed Aiello had told Fletcher he'd leave him the moped shop if Fletcher married him.
Police detective Jeffrey Griggs testified that Aiello's neighbor had called police after being woken up by "sounds of a struggle."
Griggs said he eventually watched video footage from the DVR from Aiello's home, which had been located inside the Jeep that Fletcher there. The video, which wasn't played in court, showed that Fletcher had approached Aiello's front door at about 1:45 a.m.
The footage shows Aiello opening an interior door and talking to Fletcher, who remained outside a screen door.
"Mr. Aiello was pretty animated," waving his palms up and down, said Griggs. A few minutes later, Aiello opened the door a second time and the men talked again. This time, he let Fletcher in.
The two could be seen walking around inside, then coming and going from Aiello's bedroom until about 3. Almost 20 minutes later, Fletcher returned to the front room alone, said Griggs. He used the phone and went back into the bedroom a few more times, apparently looking for something, Griggs testified.
Then, "the surveillance cameras all lose their feed one by one," and the footage ends, he said.
Along with the DVR, police also found several other items inside the Jeep, including a credit card for Midtown Moped in Aiello's name, five packages of methamphetamine weighing a total of almost 45 grams, 98 hydrocodone pills, several syringes, a Viagra pill, and four cellphones, according to court testimony.
Kirtlan said that about two weeks prior to Aiello's death, he had filed a financial crimes incident report alleging that Fletcher had stolen $200.
Griggs testified that the woman who'd called police the morning of Aiello's death said that Aiello had instructed her to call 911 if she ever saw Fletcher outside the moped business.
Beside the murder charge, Bowman also held Fletcher to answer on burglary and robbery charges, along with charges of possessing and transporting methamphetamine for the purpose of sale. He was set to be arraigned Wednesday.
Fletcher, who had on orange jail scrubs, a crew cut, and a thick beard when he appeared in court Wednesday, was arrested shortly after Aiello's death and has been in custody ever since. He's being held without bail.
Deputy District Attorney William Satchell is prosecuting the case.
Sabrina Ahrens-Gravelle, who was reportedly in the Jeep when Fletcher allegedly killed Aiello, was sentenced in August 2015 to five years probation in the case after she pleaded no contest to possession of methamphetamine.