A man charged with murder for stabbing two men in Thermal, one of whom died, was looking for a confrontation when he kicked in a home’s door and stabbed the men during a fight, a prosecutor said Monday, while the defendant’s attorney argued that he was only trying to protect himself after being outnumbered and attacked.
Opening statements were delivered in the trial of Abel Arellano Jr., 25, who is charged with murder, attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary and domestic violence in the April 16, 2016, stabbing of two men, after he allegedly broke into the home to look for his ex-girlfriend. One of the men, Josue Aguilar, died at 5:24 a.m., after others at the home drove him to John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Indio.
Prosecutors say that after a series of arguments between he and his estranged girlfriend, Arellano showed up at about 4 a.m. to the home on Middleton Street and began honking his horn, asking “Where’s my girl?”
Arellano told deputies that he was at the home to look for his daughter, whose custody he shared with the ex-girlfriend.
When no one in the home responded, Arellano allegedly pounded on the front door, then allegedly kicked the door in and slapped his ex-girlfriend upon entering, leading to a fight between him, Aguilar, another man and another woman.
Defense attorney John Dolan said that in addition to being struck with fists, someone also attacked Arellano with a baseball bat. Someone in the home also mentioned getting a gun, Dolan said.
“All he did was do what he could to get away,” Dolan told jurors Monday.
Arellano allegedly stabbed Aguilar and the other man multiple times with a metal folding knife, with the killing blow being a stab to Aguilar’s throat. The other victim was stabbed in the chest.
Arellano then fled the scene and was identified as a person of interest by sheriff’s deputies, with his photograph circulated to the public. He turned himself in at the sheriff’s Thermal station at about 9:30 p.m. that night.
Deputy District Attorney Anthony Orlando said the argument between Arellano and his ex-girlfriend began the previous night and was sparked over a pickup truck that Arellano was borrowing, which belonged to her grandfather. She wanted the truck back, but he refused. Arguments continued through the night over text messages, with Arellano searching for her at several locations he knew her to frequent, including the Thermal home, Orlando said.
Orlando argued that Arellano was not there to look for his daughter and was not merely a victim fending off his attackers.
“He was looking to prove a point because he was insulted,” Orlando said in his opening statement. “He had suspicions that someone was in (the home) and he was going to make his presence known. And he did. That knife was there for a reason.”
Dolan contended that Arellano was concerned that someone might be harming his daughter or ex-girlfriend inside the home after hearing low voices through the door, prompting him to kick the door down.
Dolan said Arellano had never met Aguilar or the other victim and could not have known that they were acquaintances of his ex-girlfriend, and not her potential attackers.
Following the stabbing, Arellano went to a neighbor’s home to try and get help, and was chased by one of the victims, who was wielding a bat, Dolan said, then turned himself in after later learning that Aguilar died.
Dolan said he was cooperative with investigators, pointing them to the location of the knife and his bloody clothes.
“This case is self-defense, which you can see by (Arellano’s) behavior, by his conduct, by his words and his statements,” Dolan said.
–City News Service