SAN DIEGO - A facilities manager for a prominent architect beat his boss to death after becoming angry over the possibility that a former supervisor could be coming back to work for the firm, a prosecutor said Monday.
Higinio Salgado, 32, is charged with first-degree murder in the April 18, 2013, death of 56-year-old Graham Downes.
"This defendant beat, tortured and killed a defenseless human being," Deputy District Attorney Amy Maund told jurors in her opening statement.
After a night of drinking, which included a happy hour hosted by Downes and a trip to a bar, Salgado pummeled the victim with 17 to 21 blows to the head on the sidewalk in front of the architect's Bankers Hill residence on West Juniper Street, Maund told the jury.
Downes "died on the street, on the cold cement," the prosecutor said.
The defendant, a former maintenance man, became angry when the name of his former supervisor, Simon Terry-Lloyd, was brought up, Maund said.
"Graham Downes did nothing wrong the night of his death," Maund said, telling jurors that when Terry-Lloyd's name was mentioned, Salgado exclaimed, "(Expletive) him! (Expletive) that guy!"
Salgado had seen Downes meeting with Terry-Lloyd the day before and assumed his former supervisor was coming back to work at the architectural firm, according to court testimony.
"The defendant couldn't let it go," Maund told the jury.
When Downes and Salgado went outside about 1 a.m. to say goodbye to the last party guests, the victim and the defendant got into a violent confrontation, the prosecutor said.
A neighbor was awakened by the sound of men arguing and looked out to see a man in a blue shirt, identified as Salgado, on top of the other man, Maund said.
Salgado and Downes were involved in a "one-sided" fight, with Downes' head being pounded into the cement, she said.
Police arrived to find the victim severely injured and the defendant lying next to him, face-down with his arm around Downes. Paramedics on the scene were able to get a pulse on Downes, but he was declared brain dead about 3 a.m. and was taken off life support a few days later.
Defense attorney Jamahl Kersey said Downes' death was "unfortunate," but wasn't a murder.
Kersey said prosecutors wouldn't be able to show what happened leading up to the fight and wouldn't be able to prove that Salgado was guilty of murder.
The attorney said Downes was a demanding boss who promoted a "work hard, play hard" atmosphere at his firm.
Before the fight, Downes assured Salgado that Terry-Lloyd wasn't coming back to work there, Kersey told the jury.
Kersey said his client was extremely intoxicated the night of the altercation, with a blood-alcohol level estimated to be more than .20 percent.
The defense attorney said he will call an expert to testify about how alcohol consumption can cause a person to become confused and disoriented.