Employee accused of beating prominent architect Graham Downes pleads not guilty

Higinio Salgado accused in beating in Bankers Hill

SAN DIEGO - An Encanto man accused of beating his boss, a prominent architect, during a fight and leaving the victim near death, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a charge of attempted murder.

Higinio Soriano Salgado, 31, allegedly inflicted major head injuries on 56-year-old Graham Downes about 1 a.m. Friday during a party at the victim's home in the 200 block of West Juniper Street, according to San Diego police.

Patrol officers responding to a reported disturbance found the two men on the ground in front of the architect's residence. Downes was unconscious with severe facial and head injuries.

Deputy District Attorney Amy Maund told Judge David Szumowski that Salgado, a property manager for the victim's company, allegedly beat Downes, fracturing his skull in several places.

Maund said that because Downes has not been declared legally dead, prosecutors could not file a murder charge against Salgado. That is expected to happen by Friday, Maund told the judge.

The prosecutor successfully argued that Salgado be held on $3 million bail, telling the judge that the defendant was a potential flight risk because he has ties to Mexico and is building a home there.

Downes' publicist, Danielle Gano, released a statement saying the victim's family and friends had known him as "an exciting and adventurous man who did no less than devour life."

"There were no half-measures in his world, and those who knew him socially surely have a memorable story to tell in which he is invariably at the center, but his heart's passion was with the design practice he toiled so hard to create and grow, Graham Downes Architecture," Gano said.

The firm is well-known for its work at several local hotels and restaurants, including Tom Ham's Lighthouse, the Bali Hai, Hotel La Jolla and the Hard Rock Hotel.

Salgado will be back in court Friday for a status conference. A readiness conference was set for May 29 and a preliminary hearing for June 11.

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