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Man Convicted of Involuntary Manslaughter in Thermal Double Stabbing

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Indio, CA -

An Indio resident who stabbed two men -- one of them fatally -- and assaulted his ex-girlfriend at a Thermal home was found guilty Wednesday of involuntary manslaughter -- rather than first-degree murder -- by a jury that also acquitted him of an attempted murder charge.

Abel Arellano Jr., 25, stabbed Josue Aguilar and Edwardo Chan multiple times with a metal folding knife after breaking into a Middleton Street residence, where his ex-girlfriend was visiting a female friend, around 4 a.m. last April 16.

Arellano kicked in the front door of the home and struck his ex with a backhand blow, leading to a fight between him, Aguilar, Chan and her friend, prosecutors said. He stabbed the male victims during the ensuing scuffle. Aguilar died at John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Indio just before 5:30 a.m. Chan survived his injuries.

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Arellano claimed he went to the home to search for his 4-year-old daughter, with whom he shared custody with his ex-girlfriend. He claimed that after honking his horn and knocking on the door without a response, he became concerned that his daughter or her mother were being harmed, and that he
stabbed the victims in self-defense after he was attacked. The child was not at the residence at the time of the stabbings.

Arellano was charged with first-degree murder, but jurors, who deliberated for nearly two days, convicted him of the lesser crime of involuntary manslaughter, along with felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon, burglary and domestic violence.

Deputy District Attorney Anthony Orlando told jurors in his closing argument that text messages exchanged that night between Arellano and his ex- girlfriend showed he went to the home with the intent of assaulting her. The prosecutor said one of the texts exchanged on the night of April 15 into the morning of April 16 read: ``I will beat the (expletive) out of you, I promise I will.''

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`He wasn't there to reconcile a relationship,'' Orlando told the jury. ``He wasn't there to get back his kid.'' Defense attorney John Dolan said Arellano went to the home to find his daughter after her mother refused to tell him where the girl was.

Dolan contended Arellano was concerned that someone might be harming his daughter or ex-girlfriend inside the home after hearing low voices through
the door, prompting him to kick down the door.

Arellano had never met Aguilar or Chan and could not have known that they were acquaintances of his ex-girlfriend, and not her potential attackers, according to Dolan.

Story: Closing Arguments Scheduled in Thermal Double Stabbing Trial

Framing the night as a desperate search for his client's daughter, Dolan said Arellano's forceful entry into the home may have seemed hasty without context. ``Most people who are parents might jump to the conclusion that there's something wrong going on there,'' Dolan said, citing the lack of response to Arellano's texts, honking of his truck's horn and knocks on the front door.

After he struck his ex-girlfriend, the home's three other occupants began punching and assaulting Arellano with a baseball bat, forcing him to curl up on the ground, according to Dolan, who also said someone in the house mentioned getting a gun.

``What would you have him do?'' Dolan asked the jury. ``Should he just let them beat him with a bat until he's unconscious? Is that his only alternative?'' Orlando contended that Arellano already had the knife out when the fight began, and said the home's occupants had a right to defend his ex-girlfriend after she was struck.

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``He can't start something and then claim self-defense,'' Orlando said. Arellano fled, then surrendered at the sheriff's Thermal station about 9:30 that night, after the sheriff's department had circulated his photograph and asked the public for help in finding him.

Dolan said that following the stabbing, Arellano went to a neighbor's home to try to get help and was chased by one of the victims, who was wielding a bat. He said Arellano turned himself in after learning that Aguilar had died, and was cooperative with investigators, pointing them to the location of the knife and his bloody clothes. ``He did what you would expect an innocent person to do,'' Dolan said.

A sentencing date has not yet been set. Arellano is due in court next Tuesday for a discussion on how a 2012 assault with a deadly weapon conviction, which resulted in probation, could affect his sentence.

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