Attorney says PB man was insane when he stabbed his roommate



City News Service

A Pacific Beach man was legally insane when he stabbed his roommate to death in their apartment, his attorney said Wednesday, but a prosecutor said the defendant knew right from wrong when he killed the victim.

Ian Suazo, 23, was convicted Monday of second-degree murder in the Sept. 24, 2008, death of Ocie Raines.

As the sanity phase of the trial got under way today, defense attorney Richard Gates told the jury that his client suffers from schizophrenia and, because of that mental disease, did not know or understand that what he was doing was morally wrong.

Gates — who has the burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence — reassured jurors that Suazo won’t be released from custody should they find that he was insane when he killed his 39-year-old roommate.

After the murder, Suazo cut his wrists “to the bone,” ran down to the beach to get some sleep, then threw himself headfirst into a vehicle, Gates told the jury.

Before he left the apartment, Suazo sprinkled salt around his doors and windows to protect himself against “soul collectors,” the attorney said.

Suazo later told a psychologist that “I came to (after the stabbing) and thought they were harvesting my soul,” his attorney told the jury.

The defendant went to a psychiatric center two days before the murder, telling doctors that he heard voices that were “mean and nice,” Gates said.

Suazo had lost his job at a hookah bar a week before the killing and moved further and further from reality as the days went by, his attorney said.

A customer at the hookah bar was the focus of Suazo’s delusions, and the defendant referred to the customer as the “psychic vampire,” “soul

collector” and even “God,” Gates told the jury.

Four doctors who conducted 10 interviews with Suazo following the murder diagnosed him with a psychotic disorder and all agree that he fits the criteria for legal insanity, Gates said.

But Deputy District Attorney Ana De Santiago said just because the defendant suffers from a psychotic disorder doesn’t mean he didn’t understand that was he did was wrong.

As far back as April 2005, Suazo had been told to stop abusing alcohol and marijuana, the prosecutor said.

Suazo was convicted of a crime in 2006 and was doing fine on probation until May 2008, when he started using alcohol and marijuana again, according to De Santiago.

Friends noticed Suazo was showing up for work drunk and he was fired, the prosecutor said.

In the week leading up to the murder, Suazo began to drink and smoke even more, and his stress and anger built up over the thought that someone “ratted” him out, the prosecutor said.

Experts will testify that Raines’ murder wouldn’t have happened if not for the defendant’s drug and alcohol abuse, De Santiago said.

If he’s found sane, Suazo faces 16 years to life in state prison, according to the prosecutor. If the defendant is found to be insane at the time of the murder, he would be sent to a state mental hospital.