Escort Service Driver to be Sentenced for Killing Man

RIVERSIDE – An escort service driver who fatally stabbed a Corona man during a confrontation over a stripper’s refusal to provide sexual favors is slated to be sentenced today to seven years in prison.

James Michael Apodaca, 33, of Corona pleaded guilty May 8 to voluntary manslaughter in the death of 25-year-old Robert Alexander.

Under the plea deal, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office dropped a charge of second-degree murder in exchange for Apodaca’s admitting the manslaughter count.

Superior Court Judge Helios Hernandez is expected to certify the plea agreement this morning and impose the sentence stipulated by the prosecution and defense.

Apodaca remains held without bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.

During a preliminary hearing in January, Deputy District Attorney Elan Zekster described the defendant as the ”muscle” for an Inland Empire-based escort service that ”scammed” customers by suggesting they would receive sex for money but instead were only offered stripe tease acts that lasted 30 minutes and cost $200.

According to testimony, Alexander had contacted the escort business around 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 15, 2013, seeking female companionship. A woman identified only as ”Maria” was sent to the victim’s apartment in the 1600 block of Via Pacifica.

Maria testified that Apodaca — who goes by the moniker ”Monster” because of his six-foot, 380-pound frame — was her driver that morning.

The witness said she informed Alexander that there would be ”no touching” while she stripped and danced. Around 3 a.m., she finished and grabbed $200 that Alexander had laid on his dresser. She said the victim stopped her from leaving his apartment and demanded his money back.

The woman alleged she feared being beaten and tried to return the money, at which point Apodaca knocked on the front door. According to the prosecution, the defendant was armed with a knife and brandished it, insisting that Alexander allow Maria to leave the residence, with the money.

Alexander retrieved a box cutter and held it behind his back, telling Apodaca to back away from his door, but the defendant instead reached inside, apparently to grab Maria’s arm.

Zekster said Alexander swung the box cutter at the defendant’s hand, slicing him between two fingers, prompting Apodaca to lunge at the victim with his knife. The defendant stabbed him in the neck, severing his carotid artery.

Alexander bled to death at the scene.

The defense argued that Apodaca was protecting himself.


Escort service bodyguard pleads guilty to killing man

RIVERSIDE – An escort service driver who fatally stabbed a Corona man during a confrontation over a stripper’s refusal to provide sexual favors pleaded guilty today to voluntary manslaughter.

James Michael Apodaca, 33, of Corona killed 25-year-old Robert Alexander in November.

During a status hearing before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Helios Hernandez, the prosecution and defense announced that a plea deal had been reached in the case.

Under the agreement, Apodaca admitted the manslaughter count and a sentence-enhancing weapon allegation in exchange for the District Attorney’s Office dropping a second-degree murder charge.

Hernandez scheduled a sentencing hearing for May 20. The stipulated sentence is seven years in prison, though the judge has discretion to increase or reduce the term of incarceration.

Apodaca remains held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.

During a January preliminary hearing, Deputy District Attorney Elan Zekster described the defendant as the ”muscle” for an Inland Empire-based escort service that ”scammed” customers by suggesting they would receive sex for money, but instead were only offered stripe tease acts that lasted 30 minutes and cost $200.

”It’s an extremely dangerous situation when you are scamming men for money,” the prosecutor said.

According to testimony, Alexander had contacted the escort business around 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 15, seeking female companionship. A woman identified only as ”Maria” was sent to the victim’s apartment in the 1600 block of Via Pacifica.

Maria testified that Apodaca — who goes by the moniker ”Monster” because of his 6-foot, 380-pound frame — was her driver that morning.

The witness said she informed Alexander that there would be ”no touching” while she stripped and danced. Around 3 a.m., she finished and grabbed $200 that Alexander had laid on his dresser. She said the victim stopped her from leaving his apartment and demanded his money back.

The woman alleged she feared being beaten and tried to return the money, at which point Apodaca knocked on the front door. According to the prosecution, the defendant was armed with a knife and brandished it, insisting that Alexander allow Maria to leave the residence — with the money.

Alexander retrieved a box cutter and held it behind his back, telling Apodaca to back away from his door, but the defendant instead reached inside, apparently to grab Maria’s arm.

Zekster said Alexander swung the box cutter at the defendant’s hand, slicing him between two fingers. Apodaca lunged at the victim with his knife, stabbing him in the neck and severing his carotid artery, the prosecutor said.

The defense argued Apodaca was protecting himself.

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