The man convicted of murder in the death of architect Graham Downes told family members he admired his boss and - to this day - doesn't know what happened the night he killed him.
Calling it “one of the most senseless killings the court has ever seen,” a San Diego judge sentenced a man to 15 years in prison for beating to death a well-known architect at the victim's Bankers Hill home.
After hearing some strong and emotional statements from family and friends, San Diego Superior Court Judge Joan Weber denied Higinio Salgado, 32, probation and said alcohol should not be used as an excuse in the killing.
"How you committed these beatings, I will never understand," the judge said, addressing Salgado. "But I do want it to be clear in this community, alcohol will not be an excuse for a killing."
At his April trial, Salgado’s attorney had argued that his client was “blackout drunk” and should not be held fully responsible for his actions. The jury didn’t agree, convicting Salgado of second-degree murder in the connection to the April 19, 2013 killing of Graham Downes.
Jurors, however, did not convict Salgado of first-degree murder, which entails premeditated intent.
Downes was killed after hosting a happy hour party at his architecture office that turned into a night of drinking.
Both Salgado and Downes were intoxicated when they got into an argument over a former employee around 1 a.m., according to the defense.
That argument escalated into a physical fight. Salgado got the upper-hand and beat Downes’ head into the pavement over and over, the prosecutor said. He was found dead outside his home.
At Tuesday's sentencing hearing, Salgado addressed that night in apologizing to the victim's family.
"I still don't know what happened that night," he said. "I can assure you that the thought of harming Graham never, never crossed my mind."
Salgado went on to describe his victim as a mentor.
"I truly admired Graham and saw him as a mentor and friend," he said. "I had no reason whatsoever to wish him harm."
"He was a great man ... I know God is watching over him in heaven," he added.