A jury found a man accused of killing a sexual partner and setting his body on fire in San Francisco’s Buena Vista Park in 2011 guilty of involuntary manslaughter but acquitted him of murder this afternoon.
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi said the defendant, David Munoz Diaz, now 25 years old, was charged with fatally choking a sexual partner on June 10, 2011.
According to the public defender, Diaz had no previous criminal history and no motive to kill the victim, 23-year-old Freddy Roberto Canul-Arguello. According to Adachi, Diaz and Canul-Arguello were allegedly acquaintances who previously had a sexual encounter.
The night Canul-Arguello died, the two men had run into each other while in the Castro neighborhood that night and decided to walk to Buena Vista Park to have sex.
Adachi said that during the sexual encounter, Canul-Arguello asked Diaz to choke him. Diaz reluctantly agreed, accidentally asphyxiating him. Diaz’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Alex Lilien, said the death was accidental and the sexual encounter consensual.
Adachi said Diaz was “frightened and distraught” after Canul-Arguello stopped breathing. According to the district attorney’s office, Diaz panicked and then burned the body, leaving it in a blue recycling bin near the park’s tennis courts just off of Buena Vista Avenue East near Haight Street.
Adachi said Diaz lit the contents of the recycling container, not to destroy the body, but as a signal for help. He said Diaz then pulled a fire alarm located nearby and called 911 several times.
During the month-long trial, a friend of Canul-Arguello testified in court, saying that Canul-Arguello had confided that he enjoyed being choked during sex.
According to Adachi, the medical examiner that performed the autopsy of the victim, testified that Canul-Arguello’s injuries could have been a result of erotic asphyxia.
Adachi said today:
“There was no motive for Mr. Diaz to intentionally harm his friend and no evidence to support a murder charge.”
Adachi added the incident:
“… was a tragedy but not murder as the prosecutor claimed.”
Diaz’s lawyer said jurors deliberated for six days before finding Diaz not guilty of murder. The jury, however, did find Diaz guilty of involuntary manslaughter, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of four years, according to Adachi.
The defendant has already been in custody for more than three years awaiting trial, Adachi said. Diaz was also found guilty of arson, mutilation of the remains of a human being and destroying evidence, according to the district attorney’s office.