Jury Finds Man Guilty of Murdering Victim in His Apartment

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News from the Office of District Attorney George Gascón 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 5, 2019

Twitter: @GeorgeGascon
SFDA CONTACT: Alex Bastian (415) 553-1931 | Max Szabo (415) 553-9089 

JURY FINDS MAN GUILTY OF MURDERING VICTIM IN HIS APARTMENT

SAN FRANCISCO — Today, District Attorney George Gascón announced that a jury found James Rickleffs, age 52, of San Francisco, guilty of murdering Eric Escalon.  In addition to murder, Mr. Rickleffs was found guilty of robbery, burglary and petty theft.  

“Those who bring harm to others will be held accountable for their actions,” said District Attorney George Gascón.  “My heart goes out to the victim’s family, they have endured an immeasurable loss.”

According to court records, on the evening of June 11, 2012, the victim, Eric Escalon, met with two friends at his apartment in San Francisco’s Diamond Heights neighborhood.  After spending time at the apartment, Escalon and one of his friends went to continue their night out at bars in the Castro neighborhood.  While out in the Castro, Escalon met the defendant James Rickleffs.

 

At 1:30 in the morning on June 12, 2012, Escalon took out $100 from an ATM on Castro Street.  Video from this transaction captured Escalon retrieving money and glancing back as Defendant Rickleffs waited in the background.  The two got into a cab near a bar at Market and 18th Street and went to Escalon’s apartment. 

 

When the roommate returned from work at 6 PM on June 12, 2012, he noticed that items were missing from the apartment and his own room.  He then went to check on Escalon and found him wrapped in a blanket.  He lifted the blanket and saw Escalon’s face and immediately called 911. 

 

San Francisco Police Officer Del Gandio responded and found Escalon on the bed rolled in a blanket, blindfolded, with a scarf wrapped around his head, covering his mouth.  Duct tape was over Escalon’s mouth on top of the scarf.  Escalon was wearing a tank top and shorts.  He was non-responsive though his shoulder still felt warm to Officer Del Gandio.  He had no pulse and was not breathing.  Officer Del Gandio moved Escalon to the floor to start chest compressions and did so until the EMTs arrived.  Paramedics cut the scarf from Escalon’s mouth and cut his hands free from the zip tie that held them in place.

San Francisco Police Department Sergeants Scott Warnke and Kevin Jones responded to the scene as did Dr. Ellen Moffatt of the Office the Chief Medical Examiner on June 12, 2012.  There was a strong chemical odor.  Dr. Moffatt conducted the autopsy of Escalon.  She concluded that Escalon died as a result of acute mixed drug intoxication of nitrates and gamma-hydroxybutyric acid and possible asphyxia.

The following day, on June 13, 2012, James Rickleffs went to 222 Columbus Street in the City and County of San Francisco with a silver suitcase.  He buzzed on the door to enter and a tenant in the building responded.  Rickleffs claimed that he left his wallet in the bathroom, and the tenant saw Rickleffs acting erratically.  The tenant was afraid of Defendant Rickleffs, and called 9-1-1 after confirming that there was no wallet in the bathroom.  Defendant Rickleffs was arrested nearby with a silver suitcase.  In that suitcase, which was booked, was stolen property including Escalon’s checkbook and the wallet, social security and banking cards of the victim’s roommate. 

 

On June 18, 2012, the victim’s roommate found a knife in his closet that he did not recognize as his own.  Sgt. Warnke picked up the knife and requested that it be processed for DNA.  On August 30, 2012 SFPD was informed that a CODIS hit identified James Rickleffs. 

 

On August 31, 2012, Rickleffs was arrested while shoplifting at TJ Maxx.  On September 2, 2012, a DNA sample was taken from Rickleffs by Sgt. Warnke.  That same day, Sgt. Dedet Mirandized Defendant and he was interviewed regarding the June 12, 2012 homicide.  During the interview, Rickleffs admitted to meeting Escalon at a bar, to going to Escalon’s apartment and drinking.  He also admitted to tying Escalon’s hands and feet and putting a sock in Escalon’s mouth, as well as to taking property from the apartment.  

 

“I want to commend the resolve of Mr. Escalon’s family in their pursuit of justice,” said Assistant District Attorney Julia Cervantes.  “This was an exceptionally difficult chapter of their lives.” 

 

A date for sentencing has not yet been set.  The Honorable Gerardo Sandoval presided.  This prosecution is the result of an excellent investigation by SFPD Sergeant Scott Warnke and the Crime Scene Investigation Unit.  Special thanks go to paralegal Jessica Diamond, Victim Advocate Maria Reynoso, as well as IT Support Specialists Morris Moore and D’Andre Lewis.  Assistant District Attorney Julia Cervantes prosecuted the case.


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