Trial Underway of 2012 Killing of SF Man Found Bound, Gagged

sf killing
San Francisco Police Department

Closing arguments are underway in the trial for a man accused of killing a hairdresser who was found tied-up and dead at his apartment in San Francisco's Twin Peaks after meeting the suspect at a Castro District bar in 2012.

James Rickleffs, 52, has been charged with murder, robbery and burglary for the June 12, 2012, killing of 28-year-old Steven "Eriq" Escalon.

Rickleffs and Escalon met the night before at 440 Castro and then went back to Escalon's apartment, located in the 5000 block of Diamond Heights Boulevard. The following day, Escalon's roommate found Escalon dead in his bedroom--his hands tied with zip ties, his mouth gagged and his body covered in duct tape.

Toxicologists later determined that Escalon died from a combination of poisoning by amyl nitrite, an inhalant commonly known as "poppers" and often used during sex, and an overdose of Gamma-Hydroxybutyric Acid--a party drug known as GHB.

Prosecutors allege that after meeting and agreeing to go to Escalon's apartment, Rickleffs spent time with Escalon drinking vodka at the apartment.

Sometime the next morning, Rickleffs tied up Escalon.

Prosecutors said he then poisoned Escalon by gagging him with a piece of cloth soaked in amyl nitrite.

Rickleffs then allegedly took items from the apartment, including a checkbook, a bankcard and a laptop.

Investigators later recovered a knife belonging to Rickleffs on the floor of Escalon's roommate's bedroom.

According to Rickleffs' attorney, Deputy Public Defender Niki Solis, upon meeting at the bar, Escalon struck a deal with Rickleffs in which Escalon agreed to pay Rickleffs $100 to take pictures at the apartment.

During a taxi ride back to the apartment, a taxi driver testified during the trial, an argument occurred between Rickleffs and Escalon, in which at one point, Rickleffs wanted to leave the taxi and head back to the bar.

"This shows that James (Rickleffs) didn't have this grand masterplan," Solis said.

Once at the apartment, Solis said, after smoking cigarettes, drinking, taking pictures and looking at pornography, Escalon asked Rickleffs to tie him up. A reluctant Rickleffs agreed, she said.

But when Rickleffs took a shower and returned to Escalon's bedroom, he found Escalon unconscious.

Solis pointed to the toxicology report, and said Escalon most likely died from a GHB overdose, which if combined with alcohol can be deadly.

"It's heartbreaking, but you've got to set the emotional part aside," she said.

Jurors are expected to begin deliberating on Friday.

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