Murder At The Toplak
by Bruce McEwen, September 27, 2017
Last Friday, Oscar Alvarez-Carrillo was bound over for trial in the April 24, 2016 murder of Salvador Hernandez at the Toplak Apartments on North State Street and Lake Mendocino Drive in Ukiah.
The holding order came after a full day of testimony during a preliminary hearing in Judge John Behnke’s court that grew increasingly horrific as the “exhibits,” a series of extremely gruesome photographs, were presented.
The victim was a “290.” 290 is a law enforcement term for a registered sex-offender (derived from Section 290 of the Penal Code), and it is a well-known fact that 290s can be Googled and their locations made known to anyone interested in where such people live. It is very likely that this is how Oscar Alvarez-Carrillo came to know that a 290, Mr. Salvador Hernandez, was an immediate neighbor at the Toplak Apartments on North State Street and Lake Mendocino Drive.
Mr. Alvarez-Carrillo then notified some of the other residents of the apartments that a sexual predator was living among them. Then on April 24th of 2016, Alvarez Carrillo went to the apartment where Hernandez lived and, using a pocket knife and a machete, slashed, hacked and stabbed Hernandez to death.
The hearing began with some discussion between the lawyers over a comment made by the defendant to law enforcement, “I think I cut my pinky off.”
The defense wanted to suggest that the victim, Mr. Hernandez, had cut defendant Alvarez-Carrillo’s finger off, thus setting off his own death. But it later became clear that the defendant had tried to stab the victim with a folding knife with such force that the blade had closed on his hand, cutting his finger off as neatly as if he’d used a pair of wire cutters.
The defense team of Marcus Topel and Frank Moore made a couple of extraordinary blunders; their attempt to suppress the comment about the finger was one of them, because the prosecutor, Deputy DA Josh Rosenfeld, said he hadn’t intended to bring it up. If the maimed hand of mayhem-intent Alvarez-Carrillo, was self-inflicted in a homicidal rage all they had to do was keep quiet and the judge never would have heard about it, but once the bell was rung, as the saying goes, it was hard to keep it from echoing throughout the hearing.
Then came the bigger blunder, the admission by Mr. Topal that the knife was in his client’s possession from the beginning.
This was all almost beside the point, the point being that Hernandez had been sliced and diced unto death as a gallery of shocked persons looked on. And there are many subsets of 290’s — chomos, rapists, creative pervs of various types. Hernandez had been been to state prison for rape.
Alvarez-Carrillo, who clearly took 290s personally, had made several attempts to get at Hernandez that day, but Hernandez’s roommate had sent the defendant away. The roommate was Mario Fuentes, who didn’t speak English very well, and so Sergeant Matt Kendall, who is bilingual, “at the knee-high conversational level,” in his own picturesque words, was sent to interview him (Fuentes).
Rosenfeld: “Did Mr. Fuentes know the victim, Mr. Hernandez?”
Kendall: “Yes. He said they had been roommates for about two years.”
Rosenfeld: “Did he know the defendant?”
Kendall: “Yes, they were neighbors at the apartment complex.”
Rosenfeld: “Did you ask him about the incident on April 24th?”
Kendall: “Yes. He said Oscar – Mr. Alvarez-Carrillo, that is – came over several times that day asking to speak with Salvador – Mr. Hernandez, who wasn’t at home at the time – and that the last time, as he [Oscar] was walking back to his own apartment something fell out of his jacket, and that he [Oscar, again] picked it up and put it back under his jacket. ”
Back and forth made it clear that Alvarez-Carrillo came a-knockin’ prepared to carve up the much older man.
Mr. Topel for the defense, is a ponderously well-fed older gentleman in a rumpled brown suit who appeared with a large gauze bandage on top of his balding head. He lumbered around the courtroom in a theatrical manner common to defense lawyers who have no case but need to impress their clients that their energetic struts and indignant bellows are going all out for the guilty man they’re defending
Topel: “Did he, Mr. Fuentes, Mario – can we use just first names here, to make it a little easier, if that’s all right with you, Sergeant Kendall? – Did he, Fuentes, Mario, tell you who called the police?”
Kendall: “He said they both did.”
Further testimony involving Massey, Kendall and Detective Andrew Porter confirmed that a neighbor named Orozco confirmed the unhappy evernt. “He [Orozco] said he heard screaming and banging so he opened his door, and just as he did he saw a man come out of apartment Number Three, and Mr. Alvarez-Carrillo came out right behind him, swinging a machete back and forth and striking the man with it.”
Rosenfeld: “What did Mr. Orozco do?”
Porter: “He yelled to Mr. Alvarez-Carrillo to stop.”
Rosenfeld: “Did he stop?”
Porter: “No. He said the man fell to his knees and Mr. Alvarez-Carrillo stabbed him in the back with the machete, and the man was able to get up and stumble to one of the vehicles parked there where he held on for a moment then fell on his back. Alvarez-Carrillo then stabbed the man five or six times.”
Rosenfeld: “What did Mr. Orozco do?”
Porter: “He said he kept yelling for him to stop, and Alvarez-Carrillo yelled back ‘he cut off my finger’ then fled on foot.”
Rosenfeld: “What was he wearing?”
Porter: “A white hoody with the Virgin Mary depicted on it.”
Rosenfeld: “Nothing further.”
Topel: “How many times did you speak to Mr. Orozco?”
Porter: “Just the once.”
Topel: “Did he, this Mr. Orozco, did he have a girlfriend with him?”
Porter: “He did, and she had an interesting name, Shay Zarco, but she was in shock and wouldn’t speak with me.”
Post-machete dispatch of Hernandez, defense attorney Topel asked Sgt Porter: “Then someone came running with a baseball bat and chased Oscar, that is Mr. Alvarez-Carrillo, away?”
Porter: “I don’t recall who interviewed him, so I can’t tell you his name.”
Topel: “He just happened to be on scene?”
Porter: “It sounds like it.”
Topel: “It’s a rough neighborhood?”