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Pacific Beach man convicted of murder, pleads insanity

By KELLY WHEELER

City News Service

A Pacific Beach man alleged by his defense team to be insane when he fatally stabbed his roommate was convicted Monday of second-degree murder.

Jurors reached their verdict against Ian Suazo after one full day of deliberations.

A sanity phase of trial begins Wednesday, during which Suazo’s attorneys will try to convince the jury that their client was legally insane when he killed 39-year-old Ocie Raines on Sept. 24, 2008.

Suazo faces 16 years to life in prison if he’s found sane. If the jury decides the defendant was insane at the time of the killing, he would be sent to a state mental hospital.

In his opening statement of the guilt phase, Deputy Public Defender Mehrdad Ghassemkhani said Suazo is mentally ill and was out of touch with reality when he tried to cut off his roommate’s head in the apartment they shared.

“He’s crazy,” the defense attorney said. “We’re not telling you he didn’t kill Ocie.”

Ghassemkhani said prosecutors wouldn’t be able to prove that the killing was premeditated or deliberate.

He told the jury that Suazo had no history of violence and no reason to kill his roommate, who was also a co-worker and friend.

Suazo, 23, had been fired as a hookah server at Sinbad’s Cafe — where people smoked flavored tobaccos — about a week before Raines was killed, Ghassemkhani said.

Raines worked at the restaurant as a bouncer and bartender.

In the week before the killing, Suazo was obsessed with getting his job back and was constantly hearing screaming voices, Ghassemkhani said.

Days before the killing, Suazo took 15 Xanax pills and panicked when he woke up the next morning, his attorney said.

His father took him to a psychiatric center, but doctors there sent him home, Ghassemkhani told the jury.

Suazo searched the Internet for “protection against soul collection” and even sprinkled salt around his doors and windows to “ward off evil spirits,” his attorney said.

Another of Suazo’s roommates, his cousin Paul, came over to the apartment the night before the killing with two girls and when Suazo asked them to leave, Raines said, “You’re going to leave me with this guy?” according to the defense attorney.

Raines also gave Suazo cocaine that night, Ghassemkhani told the jury.

In his opening statement, Deputy District Attorney Greg Walden said Suazo was extremely upset about losing his job and began to spiral downward.

A neighbor heard Raines coming back to the apartment about 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 24, 2008, heard the door close, then heard a lot of commotion and a voice saying, “Please don’t kill me, Ian. Please don’t kill me. I want to live. I don’t want to die,” the prosecutor told the jury.

About a half-hour later, Suazo’s cousin returned to the apartment with a woman and found Raines’ body.

Police found blood in the bathroom and a bread knife in the bathtub, but Suazo was gone, the prosecutor said.

About 9 a.m., police got a call about an accident nearby and believed the injured person — Suazo — threw himself in front of a car in an attempted suicide, Walden said.

Officers also noticed Suazo had a severely injured left wrist that was not consistent with an accident, the prosecutor said.