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Deliberations begin in sanity case

May 29, 2002|By MARIO RENTERÍA

Staff Writer

Jury deliberations started Tuesday in the sanity phase of the trial of Benjamin Jason Escobar, 20, of Huntington Park, who tried to killed his 6-month-old cousin in Imperial last year.

The jury will deliberate on Escobar's sanity at the time of the stabbing. Escobar has pleaded guilty to attempted murder.

Closing statements in the sanity phase were heard Tuesday afternoon after Dr. Alan Abrams, a psychiatrist at Centinela State Prison called by Deputy District Attorney Deborah Owen, said Escobar suffers from a psychotic disorder that is not otherwise specified. That means he is mentally ill but not legally insane.

Abrams said the diagnosis of Escobar by Lewis Joseph Nidorf of San Diego, a psychologist, was inappropriate. Nidorf testified for the defense May 22. Nidorf said Escobar is paranoid schizophrenic.

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Abrams said he interviewed Escobar in August 2001, three months after he tried to kill the 6-month-old infant, on May 14, 2001.

Abrams said Escobar's condition is rare. He said Escobar told him voices told him he would become a powerful monster and a leader of a family of vampires if he killed someone.

Escobar told Abrams who some of the voices belonged to: deceased rapper Tupac Shakur, a jaguar named Fred, God and an Aztalian — a person who is half Aztec and half Italian.

He said those voices would call him names and otherwise insult him. He said the voices told him if he poured the blood of a girl on his penis he would be cleansed.

Abrams was told by Escobar during the interview why he chose the infant for the attack. In the house where he was staying, with his aunt Theresa Robles lived an 8-year-old girl, the infant's older sister. Also in the house lived Sal Robles, 23, Theresa Robles' son. Escobar said he went after the baby because he would be easier to kill.

Abrams said Escobar went after the infant and did so with a knife shows he knew what he was doing. Escobar then told Abrams after he killed the baby he would turn into the powerful monster and kill Sal Robles.

Abrams talked about a report he read from the hospital where Escobar was taken that he tried to circumcise himself a couple months before the attempted murder. The report stated Escobar's condition was a substance-induced psychosis, meaning he was suffering from methamphetamine aguse.

Escobar's mother, Norma Escobar Garcia, who testified earlier in trial, said Escobar stopped using drugs in December 2000.

While defense attorney Thomas Storey of El Centro cross-examined him he asked Abrams, "Do you think his state of mind is the same as yours or mine?"

Abrams replied, "I don't know you that well," which brought laughter from family members of the baby. Escobar's mother broke down in tears as she quickly left the courtroom.

More witnesses were set to testify this morning.

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

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