13 years in prison for stabbing man in Embarcadero restroom

A man who admitted stabbing a stranger nearly to death over a perceived racial insult inside an Embarcadero park restroom was sentenced Wednesday to 13 years in prison.

Robert Alexander Perez, 36, pleaded guilty last month to an attempted murder charge and allegations he used a knife and caused great bodily injury.

The May 9 knife attack almost killed Craig Pellham, 35, a transient from the Midwest, a prosecutor said. Passersby assisted Pellham until police and medics got to the Embarcadero Marina Park South, west of the Convention Center.

San Diego Harbor Police traced Perez after finding his discarded pants along the bay. DNA tests later connected him to the assault: the victim’s blood was on the pants and Perez’s DNA was on the waistband.

Deputy District Attorney Matthew Greco said Pellham entered the public park restroom shortly after midnight and was urinating when Perez came in and stood close behind him.

Pellham recalled telling the man, “You’re too near, could you give me some space,” but Perez told police he thought Pellham called him a “beaner,” Greco said.

Perez stepped out of the bathroom, but then went back in determined to teach the stranger a lesson, Greco said. He said Perez stabbed Pellham in the back, chest and arm and abdomen, exposing his intestines.

Perez left, stripping off a layer of clothes including his jeans. He tried to toss them into the bay, but they landed in the jagged rocks along the shore, Greco said.

Harbor Police got to the victim within minutes and questioned people in the immediate area. They spoke to Perez and took down his personal information, but let him go because his clothing didn’t match the description given by witnesses, Greco said.

After officers found the discarded pants, they submitted them for DNA tests, which took months. When they got the results, which matched Perez, they tracked him down and arrested him in August at St. Vincent de Paul Village.

Greco said Perez gave incriminating statements to Harbor Police, including that he thought Pellham called him the racial slur.

Perez entered his guilty plea on Oct. 9 and agreed to the maximum sentence. In exchange, Greco dropped the allegation of premediation from the attempted murder charge.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Robert O’Neill imposed the stipulated sentence of nine years in prison for the attempted murder, one year for the knife-use and four years for the great bodily injury allegations.


Twitter: @pdrepard

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