A man who fatally stabbed his 66-year-old housemate in Jurupa Valley because he didn’t like the victim shouting at him was convicted Monday of first-degree murder.
After roughly four days of deliberations, a Murrieta jury found 37-year-old Kyle Lee Gallardo guilty of the 2015 slaying of James Heckel, along with a sentence-enhancing allegation of using a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Freer did not immediately set a sentencing date for the defendant, who is expected to receive 26 years to life in state prison.
Testimony in the trial at the Southwest Justice Center began just over two weeks ago, and jurors were handed the case last Tuesday. There were no deliberations on Friday.
According to the District Attorney’s Office, Gallardo rented a room in Heckel’s single-story house at 6075 Alicante Way, which was directly adjacent to the defendant’s parents’ home.
Deputy District Attorney Janet Hasegawa said Gallardo’s parents were unable to cope with him because of his schizophrenia and barred him from staying with them. Arrangements were made for Gallardo to rent space in Heckel’s house, and the defendant and victim resided together for six months prior to the attack, according to the prosecutor.
On the night of Feb. 9, 2015, the two men got into an argument after Heckel discovered Gallardo had used a disproportionately large share of cell phone data on a shared line, Hasegawa said.
She said the argument culminated in the victim yelling profanity at Gallardo, who retreated to his bedroom, incensed. The defendant seethed in bed while Heckel watched television in the living room, where he was also using oxygen for an undisclosed breathing disorder.
According to theprosecutor, Gallardo jumped out of bed shortly after 9 p.m. and went to the kitchen, where he grabbed a large knife, then proceeded into the living room and plunged the blade into Heckel.
“The defendant stabbed the victim in the neck, chest and face,” Hasegawa wrote in her trial brief. “The victim stood up and put out his hands. The defendant said he (then) stabbed the victim in the nose area, and the blade broke.”
According to the prosecutor, Gallardo later admitted to sheriff’s detectives that he returned to the kitchen for another knife, but when he went to resume his frenzied attack on Heckel, he found the victim dead on the floor.
At that point, Gallardo went to his parents’ home, awakened them by banging on the garage door, and informed them of what had happened and to call 911, which his father did, according to the prosecution.
Investigator said Gallardo made spontaneous statements and admissions from his first contact with deputies during his arrest, as well as throughout interviews, confessing responsibility.
However, over the ensuing five years, the defendant changed attorneys several times, and all of them argued that the diagnosed schizophrenic was mentally incompetent to stand trial, leading to multiple evaluations by different psychiatric specialists.
Ultimately, the court found one evaluator’s findings that Gallardo was fully capable of distinguishing between right and wrong and understood the consequences of his actions to be valid, paving the way for his trial.
Court records show he has prior convictions for making criminal threats and assault resulting in great bodily injury, for which he served time in state prison, though the sentence was completed in a state mental hospital.