Suspect in Diamond Heights slaying pleads not guilty

Courtesy PhotoJames Rickleffs was arrested but plead not guilty to the murder of Diamond Heights resident Eriq Escalon (above).

The man accused of killing a hairstylist in the Diamond Heights neighborhood in June pleaded not guilty to murder and residential robbery charges Thursday, prosecutors said.

James Rickleffs, 45, was arrested Sept. 2 in connection with the death of Steven “Eriq” Escalon, a 28-year-old who was found bound and gagged in his apartment in the 5000 block of Diamond Heights Boulevard on the evening of June 12, according to police.

Rickleffs, who was on probation for grand theft at the time of the arrest, is being held on no-bail status and is scheduled to return to court Oct. 1 for a status hearing, District Attorney’s Office spokesman Alex Bastian said.

Prosecutors say Rickleffs met Escalon at 440 Castro, a bar in the Castro district, and then went back to Escalon’s residence earlier on June 12.

Escalon’s roommate eventually found his body.

Several witnesses described a suspect who had been seen earlier with Escalon, and one person identified him as Rickleffs, police said.

Items from Escalon’s apartment, including electronics and financial documents, were found in Rickleffs’ possession, and police also say they have forensic evidence linking him to the crime.

Escalon worked as a cosmetologist at Metamorphosis Salon on Market Street, according to his Facebook page.
District Attorney George Gascón said last week that Escalon’s death is part of a recent series of robberies and burglaries in which the victims have taken strangers back to their homes from bars in the Castro, a neighborhood famous for its gay culture.

Investigators are still seeking more information about Rickleffs, along with anyone who may have been the victim of a similar crime.

Anyone with information is encouraged to call Sgt. Scott Warnke or inspectors Daniel Dedet, Kevin Jones or Robert Valverde in the Police Department’s homicide unit at (415) 553-1145.

People calling after hours can call (415) 553-1071, while those wishing to remain anonymous can call (415) 575-4444 or send a tip by text message to TIP411.

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