SAN FRANCISCO—On Tuesday, March 5, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon announced that a jury found James Rickleffs, 52, of San Francisco, guilty of murdering Eric Escalon. In addition to murder, Rickleffs was found guilty of robbery, burglary and petty theft. A sentencing date for the Rickleffs has not been determined.
“Those who bring harm to others will be held accountable for their actions,” said District Attorney George Gascón. “My heart goes out to the victim’s family, they have endured an immeasurable loss.”
According to court records, on June 11, 2012, Escalon met with two friends at his apartment in San Francisco’s Diamond Heights neighborhood. After spending time inside the apartment, Escalon and one of his friends went out to bars in the Castro neighborhood. While out in the Castro region, Escalon met Rickleffs.
At 1:30 a.m. Escalon took out $100 from an ATM on Castro Street, where video from this transaction captured Escalon retrieving money and glancing back as Rickleffs waited in the background. The two got into a cab near a bar at Market and 18th Street and went to Escalon’s apartment.
When Escalon’s roommate returned from work at 6 p.m. on June 12, 2012, he spotted items missing from the apartment and his own room. He went to check on Escalon and found him wrapped in a blanket. He lifted the blanket and saw Escalon’s face and immediately contacted 911.
San Francisco Police Department Officer Del Gandio responded and found Escalon on the bed rolled in a blanket, blindfolded, with a scarf wrapped around his head, covering his mouth. Duct tape was over Escalon’s mouth on top of the scarf. He was wearing a tank top and shorts. He was non-responsive though his shoulder still felt warm to Officer Del Gandio and there was no pulse and was not breathing. Officer Del Gandio moved Escalon to the floor to start chest compressions until the EMTs arrived. Paramedics cut the scarf from Escalon’s mouth and cut his hands free from the zip tie that held them in place.
Sergeants Scott Warnke and Kevin Jones of the SFPD responded to the scene as did Dr. Ellen Moffatt of the Office the Chief Medical Examiner. There was a strong chemical odor coming from the apartment and an autopsy of Escalon. Moffat concluded that Escalon died as a result of acute mixed drug intoxication of nitrates and gamma-hydroxybutyric acid and possible asphyxia.
On June 13, 2012, Rickleffs went to 222 Columbus Street in the City and County of San Francisco with a silver suitcase. He buzzed on the door to enter the building after the tenant responded. Rickleffs claimed he forgot his wallet in the bathroom, and the tenant spotted Rickleffs acting erratically. The tenant was afraid and called 9-1-1 after confirming that there was no wallet in the bathroom. The defendant was arrested nearby with a silver suitcase, where stolen property including Escalon’s checkbook and wallet, social security and banking cards of the victim’s roommate were discovered.
On June 18, 2012, the victim’s roommate found a knife in his closet that he did not recognize. Sgt. Warnke picked up the knife and requested that it be processed for DNA. On August 30, 2012, the SFPD was alerted that that a CODIS hit identified James Rickleffs.
On August 31, 2012, Rickleffs was arrested while shoplifting at TJ Maxx. On September 2, 2012, a DNA sample was taken from Rickleffs by Sgt. Warnke and Sgt. Dedet mirandized Rickleffs who was interviewed regarding the June 12, 2012 homicide. Rickleffs admitted to meeting Escalon at a bar, going to Escalon’s apartment and drinking. He added to tying Escalon’s hands and feet and putting a sock in Escalon’s mouth, as well as taking property from the apartment.
“I want to commend the resolve of Mr. Escalon’s family in their pursuit of justice,” said Assistant District Attorney Julia Cervantes. “This was an exceptionally difficult chapter of their lives.”
Written By Casey Jacobs