Both sides rest in murder trial of man charged in local attorney’s gruesome slaying

Crime Watch

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Both sides in the trial of a man charged in the grisly killing of a local attorney have finished presenting their cases, with closing arguments expected Wednesday.

Nicholas Quintana, 22, has admitted to repeatedly stabbing Marcos Vargas but said he acted in a desperate attempt to escape from the attorney’s apartment. He said he went there after meeting Vargas on a dating app but wasn’t allowed to leave.

On Monday, his second day of testimony, Quintana said he couldn’t recall the details of how he inflicted each of the many wounds suffered by Vargas, who police and a pathologist have testified was nearly decapitated. He denied cuts to Vargas’ mouth were made in disgust over the attorney’s offer of oral sex, or that a wound to the attorney’s buttocks indicated a hatred toward gay men.

Prosecutor Eric Smith expressed disbelief that Quintana couldn’t remember the details of how he inflicted the injuries. He said one wound was so deep that Quintana’s hand would have been partly inside Vargas’ head.

“You don’t remember taking a knife and going all the way way around his neck from one side to the other?” Smith asked.

Quintana testified he slashed wildly with a box cutter as he fought Vargas. Some wounds must have been inflicted while he was on the attorney’s back, he said. Others he couldn’t recall.

Quintana faces life without parole if convicted of first-degree murder with special circumstances of lying in wait and means of torture.

Vargas, 26, worked at Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance at the time of his death early Nov. 29, 2017. He ran from his southeast Bakersfield apartment and banged on a door for help but died before first responders arrived.

Smith says Quintana went to Vargas’ apartment intending to rob and kill the attorney. Quintana has admitted to stealing a cellphone and laptop from the apartment.

The prosecutor also says the brutality of the crime is due in part to Quintana’s hatred of gay men.

Defense attorney Timothy Hennessy has elicited testimony from his client that he acted in self-defense in killing Vargas. Hennessy told jurors Quintana is not a murderer, just a man with secrets.

One of those, according to Quintana’s testimony, was his attraction to men. He said he was dating a woman in Long Beach but was also interested in men at the time he met Vargas.

Quintana testified he has since married and is no longer sexually interested in men.

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