The man accused of murder in the choking death of Freddy Roberto Canul-Arguello in Buena Vista Park in 2011 was instead found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and three other charges, prosecutors said.
After six days of deliberations, the jury found David Munoz Diaz, 25, of San Francisco, not guilty of murder, according to the Public Defender’s Office, but did find him guilty of involuntary manslaughter, arson of the property of another, mutilating human remains and misdemeanor destroying evidence.
Involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of four years incarceration and Diaz has been in custody for more than three years awaiting trial, Public Defender’s Office spokeswoman Tamara Barak Aparton said.
Canul-Arguello’s partially burned body was found in a recycling bin near the tennis courts in Buena Vista Park on June 10, 2011. Police at the time said Canul-Arguello was dead before his body was burned.
Diaz was arrested July 22, 2011, and held on $5 million bail. The version of events that came out in court was that Diaz and Canul-Arguello were known to each other and had previously had a sexual encounter, Aparton said. The two reportedly ran into each other in the Castro and walked to Buena Park to have sex.
At some point, Canul-Arguello was strangled to death and his body was burned by the plastic recycling bin that Diaz had set on fire.
During the course of the trial, the prosecution and defense battled over whether Canul-Arguello’s death was a tragic accident that was the result of a risky sexual strangling experiment or that Diaz became enraged and choked the victim to death on purpose.
Another aspect that drew attention was why Diaz had lit the recycling bin on fire, with his public defender arguing it was a signal fire to call for help and prosecutors saying it was a deliberate effort to destroy evidence.
Regardless, the jury returned a not guilty verdict on the murder charge and guilty verdict on involuntary manslaughter and other charges.
Diaz’s attorney, Alex Lilien, was relieved with the jury’s decision.
“David is a sweet kid who never meant to hurt anyone,” Lilien said. “Freddy’s death was a terrible, tragic accident.”
The District Attorney’s Office, while disturbed with the nature of the way Canul-Arguello’s body was found, feels the jury did its job, according to spokesman Alex Bastian.
“We find it very disturbing that the victim was killed and his body subsequently burned,” Bastian said. “However, we respect the jury’s decision.”Bay Area NewsCrimeCrime & CourtsDavid Munoz DiazFreddy Roberto Canul-ArguelloSan Francisco Public Defender's Office