SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A prosecutor said Tuesday an East County resident should be convicted of murder for stabbing a man in the neck during a drunken confrontation at a get-together in south San Diego, but a defense attorney said his client accidentally stabbed the victim after trying to get him to leave the party.
Deputy District Attorney Amy Maund said in her opening statement that Oscar Sarabia, 35, killed Mariano Alvarez because the defendant thought the 34-year-old victim was "disrespecting" him and his wife.
Maund said the defendant's brother and his wife invited Sarabia to the Oct. 14, 2007, party and a friend of the host invited Alvarez and another brother-in-law to the get-together on Jouglard Street.
After arriving about 11 p.m., Alvarez struck up a conversation with Sarabia and starting making comments in Spanish about his wife, the prosecutor said.
"The victim said 'Hey, your wife's beautiful (filete). What a hottie,"' Maund told the jury.
Alvarez kept making remarks about Sarabia's wife for the next five hours, and was killed by the defendant when he went to leave, the prosecutor said.
"He (Sarabia) was too macho to let it go," Maund told the jury.
She said Sarabia's wife tried to hold her husband back and felt a knife in the defendant's pocket.
One of the Sarabia's relatives saw the defendant standing over the victim after the stabbing and heard him say, "You will not mess with my wife again," according to the prosecutor.
After the stabbing, Sarabia fled to Mexico, where he hid out for two years before being arrested and returned to San Diego, Maund said.
Defense attorney William Nimmo said Sarabia came to the party with a folding knife in his pocket because he had taken it away from his 9-year-old earlier.
At the party, Alvarez was "socially aggressive" toward Sarabia's wife and started to flirt with her, Nimmo told the jury.
"He took a shine to her," Nimmo said. "Basically, he was drooling over her."
The "filete" comment that Alvarez made to Sarabia's wife could be translated to "piece of meat," the defense attorney told the jury.
Nimmo said Sarabia got very irritated with the victim, whose blood-alcohol level was .24 percent -- three times the legal limit for driving -- when he died.
"This got to be an uncomfortable night for Oscar Sarabia," his attorney said.
Around 4 a.m., after another sexually suggestive comment, Sarabia told Alvarez, "It's time for you to leave," according to Nimmo.
Sarabia will testify that he was "a little bit afraid of the victim" and thought of him as "a bit of a bad-ass," Nimmo said.
As the party broke up, Sarabia went outside to find Alvarez urinating on a wall, the defense attorney said.
"(Sarabia said), `You piece of (expletive). You don't respect nothing."'
The defendant, fearing he was going to get hurt after Alvarez faced him, retreated to the house, Nimmo said.
After his wife hugged him, Sarabia realized he had a knife and decided to confront Alvarez with it to get him to leave, the attorney said.
Once outside, Alvarez rushed toward Sarabia and the defendant stabbed the victim, the defense attorney said.
"Oscar wasn't sure what happened," Nimmo told the jury.
Once he realized that Alvarez had been stabbed, Sarabia "freaked out" and drove to Mexico, Nimmo said.
"This was an accident," the defense attorney said. "It's not murder."
Sarabia faces up to 26 years to life in prison if convicted. The trial is expected to last at least two weeks in the courtroom of Judge Jeffrey Fraser.
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