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Jury decides Escobar is sane

May 30, 2002|By MARIO RENTERÍA

Staff Writer

Outside Department 7 in the second floor of the County Courthouse in El Centro were the parents of an 18-month-old boy who had been stabbed in the neck by his 20-year-old cousin a year earlier.

They waited several hours for a verdict from a 12-member jury. The jury was deliberating on the sanity of Benjamin Jason Escobar, 20, who on May 17 pleaded guilty to stabbing his infant cousin.

The boy's father, Anthony Escalera, stood with family members while listening to them talk, while the infant's mother, Brandy Robles, sat with other family members on the marble floor of the courthouse.


They talked, laughed and hugged each other while they patiently waited for the verdict.

On the other side of the courthouse sat Escobar's family. His mother, sister and others sat in old chairs in the courthouse. They did not laugh and did not smile.

On occasion they would walk through the courthouse reading documents on walls and peeking through courtroom doors.

At noon Wednesday the verdict was in.

Family members rushed into the courtroom, but Escobar's family waited outside until Escobar was brought into the courtroom.

Everyone then was in place — the jury, the attorneys, Escobar and the judge.

Superior Court Judge Matias Contreras was handed the verdict. He read it and simply nodded in approval. He handed the paper to the clerk, who read the verdict aloud.

The jury found Escobar legally sane when he committed the act. Escobar will be sentenced April 27.

Members from the two families cried, some in despair, the others in victory.

Outside the courthouse, Escalera told a reporter while he fought back tears, "We're relieved the judicial system came through."

Robles said, "We feel really good and justice was served."

Imperial County Deputy District Attorney Deborah Owen said the sentence for an attempted murder conviction is life in prison with the possibility of parole. She said that's likely what Escobar will be given. Owen was the prosecuting attorney while Thomas Storey of El Centro defended Escobar.

"I'm pleased with the verdict because I think he's legally sane. It's always been our position he was legally sane," Owen said.

She said one of the key factors in proving he was sane was that he knew what he did was wrong and admitted it. Owen said the interview done by Imperial police after the stabbing was key evidence in the trial.

"The police work in this case was really good. Getting his confession with question of him knowing what's right or wrong," she said.

Escobar should be up for parole in about six years.

On May 14, 2001, Escobar stabbed his 6-month-old cousin in the neck with a knife he found in the garage of a home on the 600 block of Yucca Street in Imperial.

He had been staying in the home for about two weeks with his aunt Theresa Robles. Escobar is from Huntington Park.

He claimed voices told him to kill somebody that day, so he picked the infant because he would be easiest to kill.

Escobar stabbed the baby while he was sleeping and then carried him to a trash bin across the street. He covered the infant with a white trash bag and left him to die.

The baby was found by Imperial County District Attorney's Detective David Fimbres, who heard through his radio the 911 call Theresa Robles made to dispatch.

Fimbres searched for the baby after he interviewed Theresa Robles and Escobar. The baby survived the attack and is doing fine.

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

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