Trial beginning for cousin in baby's stabbing

May 13, 2002|By MARIO RENTERÍA

Staff Writer

Jury selection is set to begin Tuesday in the trial of a Huntington Park man accused of stabbing his 7-month-old cousin in the neck and leaving him for dead in a trash can outside an Imperial home.

Benjamin Jason Escobar, 20, is facing a charge of attempted murder for allegedly stabbing the infant on May 14 in Imperial. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Escobar had been staying with the baby's family for two weeks prior to the stabbing.

Escobar, according to earlier reports, admitted to stabbing the infant but claimed voices made him do it.

Imperial County Deputy District Attorney Deborah Owen has said Escobar said he heard voices telling him to kill someone but the voices reportedly did not tell him who to kill.


Owen said Escobar is pleading both not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity.

She said jury will rule in two phases of the trial; it first will decide whether Escobar is guilty and second whether he is insane.

Owen said she doesn't believe Escobar is insane.

"My expert has examined him and he said Escobar is not insane and the court had two doctors analyze Escobar and they said he is not insane," said Owen.

The prosecution's expert is a psychiatrist while the two people who examined Escobar for the court were psychologists.

She added, "You can be mentally ill and still be legally sane."

Owen said she will argue Escobar does not meet the definition of insanity.

According to reports, Escobar had planned to kill his 8-year-old cousin, who was in the Imperial house where Escobar was staying.

Escobar instead decided to go after the baby while he was sleeping in his crib because he determined it would be easier, according to investigators.

The baby survived the attack despite being stabbed in the neck and left for dead in a trash bin across the street from his home with a trash bag on top of him.

The baby was found by authorities within 15 minutes of their arrival. His breathing was shallow and he was given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation by an off-duty paramedic who lives in the area.

Court-appointed defense attorney Thomas Storey of El Centro will defend Escobar. Storey was not available for comment Friday or today.

The trial will be in the County Courthouse in El Centro. Superior Court Judge Matias Contreras will preside. Jury selection will begin Tuesday.

>>Staff Writer Mario Rentería can be reached at 337-3441.

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