Man who beat Bankers Hill architect to death gets 15 years to life

SAN DIEGO - A manager who beat his well-known architect boss to death after a night of partying and drinking was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years to life in state prison.

Higinio Salgado, 32, was convicted in April of second-degree murder in the 2013 death of 56-year-old Graham Downes.

Deputy District Attorney Amy Maund said Salgado -- a facilities manager -- was angry over the possibility that a former supervisor could be coming back to work for Downes' company.

Superior Court Judge Joan Weber said she couldn't understand the "senseless and disturbing killing," given the fact that Downes gave Salgado every opportunity to thrive, even though he was urged by some to fire the defendant.

"He (Downes) was the man who stuck with you," the judge told the defendant.

Weber said alcohol was not an excuse for the killing and Salgado needed to be held accountable for his actions.

Friends and family described Downes as "opinionated," "prickly" and "hard to get along with," but a man "fierce in his convictions."

One of the victim's several brothers said he misses Graham every day.

"A light has gone off in our world," Paul Downes said. "He was our captain."

The victim's architectural firm was known for design work on high-profile boutique hotel and restaurant projects, including the Tower 23 hotel in Pacific Beach. He was also passionate about revitalizing Barrio Logan.

Executives for the company had to lay off workers and begin the process of shutting down the firm after his death, said Alix Veen, the executor of Downes' estate.

Downes' girlfriend of 12 years, Tracy Borkum, said he was a man "larger than life."

"No one was too great or too small for Graham's attention," she said.

Before he was sentenced, Salgado apologized to the victim's family.

"I know Graham Downes was a great man," the defendant said. "I admired him. I know God is looking after him in heaven."

Salgado's brother, Victor Soriano, said the defendant -- who was the first in his family to graduate from college and had recently gotten married -- was "kind-hearted," the opposite of how he was portrayed in public.

Defense attorney Jose Badillo said his client "was living the American dream."

But after a night of drinking on April 18, 2013, which included a happy hour hosted by Downes and a trip to a bar, Salgado pummeled the victim with 17to 21 blows to the head on the sidewalk in front of the architect's Bankers Hill home on West Juniper Street, Maund said.

The defendant, a former maintenance man, became angry when the name of his former supervisor, Simon Terry-Lloyd, was brought up, Maund said.

Salgado had seen Downes meeting with Terry-Lloyd the day before and assumed his former supervisor was coming back to work at the firm, according to court testimony.

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 "one-sided" fight, with Downes' head being pounded into the cement, she said.

Police arrived to find the Downes severely injured and Salgado next to him, face-down with his arm around his employer. Paramedics were able to get a pulse, but Downes was declared brain-dead about 3 a.m. and removed from life support a few days later.

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