Defendant claims self-defense

The accused killer of a 21-year-old after a 2004 Giants ballgame took the stand Wednesday to claim he killed in self-defense and that he turned himself in after a religious epiphany.

Rafael Cuevas, 26, was taken into custody at the Mexican border about two weeks after he allegedly stabbed Timothy Griffith, of Redwood City, during a fight in a parking lot behind the Giants’ ballpark on the night of Sept. 17, 2004.

The melee started after a celebratory Griffith allegedly smacked the passenger side window of Cuevas’ Toyota Corolla. Cuevas testified that somebody punched him in the throat and kept him in a choke hold while Griffith punched him.

Cuevas said he thought to himself, “If I don’t do something fast, I may never breath again.”

That’s when he pulled out a knife, opened it with a flip of his wrist, and “started swing-ing.” Griffith was stabbed several times and Griffith’s friend Carlos Ortega was allegedly beaten by Cuevas’ friend, Jeffery Skifich.

After the killing, Cuevas went to a party in Union City. Authorities would later find his jacket — which contained a bloody knife, a ticket to the Sept. 17 game and a season ticket to the 49ers in his name — at an intersection near the party.

After learning that Griffith was dead, Cuevas drove with his mother and a friend to Arizona, where they crossed the border into Mexico to meet his grandfather in the city of Magdalena. While in Mexico, Cuevas walked 70 kilometers through the desert in an annual “pilgrimage” in honor of the city’s patron saint.

“I was just praying that I could be forgiven for killing somebody,” he said.

Cuevas, who was one of San Francisco’s 10 most wanted criminals at the time, ended up calling investigators to arrange a surrender. He is charged with murder.

bbegin@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Giants second baseman Donovan Solano scores on a double in the seventh inning against the Dodgers at Oracle Park on July 29. (Chris Victorio/Special to The Examiner)
Will the Giants make the playoffs? Kris Bryant may be the answer

By Chris Haft Special to The Examiner You’d be hard-pressed to find… Continue reading

Tiffany Carter, owner of Boug Cali West Coast Creole Shack in San Francisco’s La Cocina Marketplace, was dismayed by gentrification she found when she returned to her hometown to start a business. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
SF Black Wallstreet: Helping residents build wealth, reclaim spaces they’ve had to leave

Tiffany Carter moved back to her hometown of San Francisco five years… Continue reading

A prescribed fire at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks was conducted in June 2016 to reduce hazardous fuel loading, increase watershed health, and restore the natural fire cycle in the Redwood Canyon area ecosystem. (Photo courtesy Rebecca Paterson/National Park Service)
Experts, UC scientists discuss wildfires in the state’s riskiest regions

Wildfires are nothing new in California’s history, but the magnitude and frequencies… Continue reading

Fourth-grade students at Lucerne Valley Elementary School don masks and Western wear for a “Walk Through California” history day during in-person instruction. (Courtesy of Krystal Nelson)
Confusion over mask mandate for California schools sparks tension between districts and parents

By Diana Lambert EdSource Shifting rules around mask mandates at schools are… Continue reading

In his extensive filming of The City during the pandemic, Eric Goodfield said he has been “observing how the environment affects the behavior of people.” (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Filmmaker Eric Goodfield fixes lens on SF’s COVID days

140 days of shooting in The City made for ‘greatest adventure’

Most Read