One Year Later, SF Murder Case Moves Forward
A year after the burned body of Freddy Canul-Arguello was found in San Francisco’s Buena Vista Park, the case against the man accused of murdering him is moving forward.
The gay Tenderloin district resident’s body was discovered at 4:39 a.m. June 10, 2011. David Munoz Diaz, 23, who faces murder and other charges, is set to face a preliminary hearing August 30 in San Francisco Superior Court.
Deputy Public Defender Alex Lilien has said that Canul-Arguello, 23, and Diaz had been having consensual sex. He said last week there appears to have been "some choking involved during the sex."
Diaz was arrested July 22. Days later, he pleaded not guilty to felony counts that included charges of murder and robbery. He also pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor count of destruction of evidence.
In a phone interview last Friday, June 8, Lilien called Diaz a "sweet kid."
"I really do believe in this guy, and I firmly believe it was a terrible accident," Lilien said
Diaz, who’s in custody in San Francisco County jail on $5 million bail, seemed at ease Friday as he appeared at the brief court hearing. He wore the customary jail uniform of an orange shirt and pants, but he didn’t appear to be wearing handcuffs when he walked in. He wore black-framed glasses, and his black hair had been styled into a slight spike toward the front.
Lilien said, "I think I know what happened," on that morning last June, "but I’m not prepared to discuss all the details now."
The medical examiner’s report, which was completed in November, reveals some hints about what happened.
The document says a burned recycling bin was near Canul-Arguello’s body, which was charred in several places. His underwear had been pulled down to his knees, and there was melted blue plastic on his face and other parts of his body. Burned, crumpled newspaper was in his "tightly flexed" left hand, the report, which the Bay Area Reporter has examined, says.
The cause of death was listed as asphyxia due to strangulation. Evidence of strangulation included fractured cartilage at his throat.
Lilien said last week that Diaz had "sort of tried to draw attention" to Canul-Arguello’s death, "and it just didn’t go that well." He said Diaz tried to summon help, but he did it "sort of in a strange way."
Asked whether Diaz had tried to get assistance by making a phone call or setting a fire, Lilien said, "Both," and that Diaz had called 911. Lilien declined to discuss the details further. Diaz’s supposed call couldn’t be confirmed with city emergency management staff for this story.
As for the notion that Diaz had called 911 and set the fire in order to summon help, Alex Bastian, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office, said, "Let’s see what the testimony shows at the preliminary hearing." Such a session is typically when a judge determines whether there’s enough evidence to proceed to trial with the charges.
Eduardo Leon, 27, a close friend of Canul-Arguello’s, said last week that he misses him, and that recently he and others were recalling "when we used to go out and have fun, but he’s not here any more with us."
Leon said he’d never met Diaz, and had never heard Canul-Arguello talk about him.
He said that he hopes Diaz spends the rest of his life in jail.
"My friend, he didn’t deserve to die like that," Leon said. "Nobody deserves to die like that."
Last year, Leon told the B.A.R. that he’d seen Canul-Arguello at the Cafe bar in the Castro just hours before he died. Others have also said they saw Canul-Arguello there that night.
But last week, Leon said that he hadn’t gone to the Cafe that Thursday night. He said that he’d last seen Canul-Arguello that Wednesday in the Mission neighborhood. Asked in a subsequent interview about the discrepancy, Leon called it "a mistake."
Lilien, who declined a request to interview Diaz, said the pace of the case is "not unusual." He cited the magnitude of the charges and the amount of evidence involved, among other factors.
Bastian made similar remarks.
"The discovery in homicide cases tends to be voluminous, and for that reason, at times the cases move slower," he said.
Assistant District Attorney Heather Trevisan is prosecuting the case.