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Officials: Escobar said voices ordered stabbing

May 18, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

Voices made him do it.

That is what Benjamin Jason Escobar reportedly told police investigators when interviewed after his 7-month-old cousin was stabbed in the neck Monday, according to Deputy District Attorney Deborah Owen.

During a hearing Friday, Owen alleged before Superior Court Judge Joseph Zimmerman that Escobar, charged with attempted murder, told police he did stab his cousin.

Owen said Escobar told police he heard voices telling him to kill somebody. The voices reportedly did not tell him who to kill.

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Owen further alleged Escobar said he first planned to kill his 8-year-old cousin who was in the Imperial house where Escobar, a Huntington Park resident, had been staying for the past two weeks.

However, Escobar then decided it would be easier to kill 7-month-old Anthony Escalera, who was asleep in his crib at the time of the attack, Owen said based on details from police investigators.

Imperial police Investigator Ray Valenzuela said Friday the information released by Owen was correct — that during an interview with Escobar he said voices told him to kill.

Anthony survived the attack despite a stab wound to his neck and being left for dead in a trash bin across the street from his home, a trash bag on top of him.

Anthony was found by authorities within 15 minutes of their arrival. Anthony was breathing shallowly and an off-duty paramedic who lives in the area gave him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

The baby was taken to El Centro Regional Medical Center, where he was stabilized, then flown to Children's Hospital in San Diego.

At last report he was in fair condition, but the hospital is no longer providing information on his condition and family on Friday declined to comment on how he is doing.

Family filled the courtroom Friday. Their cries could be heard as Superior Court Judge Joseph Zimmerman decided whether to approve a motion by Owen to increase Escobar's bail to $1 million.

When Escobar came into the court, shackled and in orange jail overalls, he scanned the courtroom, seemingly looking at his family members — the same family members as Anthony.

When the proceedings started, Zimmerman delayed a decision on the bail increase, stating he wanted Escobar to have representation before he ruled.

During his arraignment Wednesday, Escobar pleaded not guilty and said he did not want a court-appointed attorney.

On Friday, Escobar told the judge he had obtained his own attorney but that attorney was not present. Zimmerman then decided to direct that a public defender represent Escobar for the bail hearing.

Once the public defender had a chance to meet with Escobar, Zimmerman increased Escobar's bail to $1 million.

Zimmerman said if he were going to err, he was going to err on the conservative side. It was then that he increased the bail.

That action brought applause from the family, many of whom could no longer muffle their cries.

Outside the courtroom, family members declined to speak about the stabbing other than to say they are grateful for the support they have received from the community.

The next court date for Escobar will be May 30.

Owen said she is anticipating the defense could argue not guilty by reason of insanity.

"Based on the evidence that would not surprise me," she said, adding, "It's our position he is not legally insane. We will argue against that."

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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