Escort service driver 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 was sentenced today to seven years in prison.

James Michael Apodaca 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 against the 33-year-old Corona resident.

Superior Court Judge Helios Hernandez imposed the sentence stipulated by the prosecution and defense. Apodaca must serve at least 5 years, 11 months behind bars before he’s eligible for parole.

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 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 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 put on his dresser. She said the victim stopped her from leaving his apartment and demanded his money back.

The woman said 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.

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