Crime

Case against man accused of stabbing pregnant girlfriend goes to jury

Brian Rodriguez, who is on trial for allegedly stabbing his pregnant girlfriend, appears in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on Sept. 30, 2015.
Brian Rodriguez, who is on trial for allegedly stabbing his pregnant girlfriend, appears in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on Sept. 30, 2015. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

A San Luis Obispo jury will decide whether a Lompoc man accused of stabbing his then-pregnant girlfriend in 2014, the last of several violent abusive acts spanning years, will spend the rest of his life in prison after attorneys presented closing arguments Wednesday.

Brian Rodriguez, 26, was arrested in July 2014 after allegedly slashing and stabbing his then-girlfriend during a drunken rage while the couple and their children visited another young family in Cambria. The alleged victim suffered several stab wounds to her arm and back, wounds that added to an existing number of scars from previous abuse, according to testimony.

Rodriguez has pleaded not guilty to the 27 counts against him, including attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon, claiming he doesn’t remember the incident due to excessive alcohol consumption on the night of the stabbing.

During the trial, jurors heard testimony from the victim, whom The Tribune is identifying as “Vanessa Doe” due to the allegation that she is a victim of domestic violence.

She recounted several incidents prior to the July 2014 stabbing in which Rodriguez slashed or stabbed her on her arms, legs and back, as well as text messages he sent to her threatening to put her in a wheelchair and telling her to “kiss (her) other leg goodbye.”

Deputy District Attorney Greg Devitt pointed to a previous conviction for spousal abuse of an ex-wife in 2008 as evidence of Rodriguez’s violent and sadistic tendencies.

However, the defense also called a forensic psychiatrist, who testified that Rodriguez has been diagnosed with personality disorders and suffers from depression and other conditions. Another defense witness, a doctor who specializes on the effects of alcohol on the brain, testified that Rodriguez, who claimed he drank 18 beers on the night of the stabbing, was “blacked-out” and couldn’t form the intent required for attempted murder.

In closing statements, Devitt told jurors the charges against Rodriguez include documented cases of past abuse of Vanessa Doe.

“You might say, well, 27, that’s a lot of crimes. But he did a lot of bad things,” Devitt said. “It’s not piling on (charges). It’s holding him accountable.”

Standing before photos of the victim’s myriad body scars, Devitt dismissed Rodriguez’s black-out defense.

“This is the sadist side of him,” Devitt said. “(Alcohol) just enhances who you are. It enhanced who he is — he’s a sadist.”

Raymond Allen, Rodriguez’s defense attorney, asked jurors not to “blaze through deliberations” and instead consider Rodriguez’s childhood — including being raised by an addict mother and suffering child abuse — as well as mental and physical issues such as depression, attention-deficit disorder, borderline personality disorder and severe drug and alcohol abuse.

Allen, who hasn’t denied that Rodriguez was the attacker, said his client lacked “specific intent,” a legal term that means a defendant intentionally committed a crime with a specific result in mind.

Allen said that Rodriguez did not intend to kill his girlfriend.

Rodriguez faces a maximum of three life terms plus roughly 30 additional years in prison if convicted on all counts.

Jury deliberations are set to resume Thursday morning in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.

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