david.diaz.7.27.jpgA man accused of killing another man and then setting his body on fire in San Francisco’s Buena Vista Park last month pleaded not guilty to murder and arson charges today in a case that his attorney says was “a terrible accident” that occurred during a sexual encounter.

David Munoz Diaz, 22, was arrested last Friday and charged Tuesday in connection with the death of Freddy Roberto Canul-Arguello, whose partially burned body was found early on June 10 near the park’s tennis courts just off of Buena Vista Avenue East.

Police said Canul-Arguello, 23, was already dead before he was burned, and that he had been killed near the tennis courts earlier that morning.

Diaz, whose arraignment was delayed for two days because he was hospitalized and undergoing a mental health evaluation, pleaded not guilty this morning to charges of murder, arson, mutilating a body and destruction of evidence, prosecutors said.

Diaz’s attorney, Alex Lilien from the public defender’s office, said outside of court that the death came after a consensual encounter between Canul-Arguello and his client.

“This was two young gay Latino men who went up to Buena Vista Park to have sex,” Lilien said, adding that the death appeared to be from asphyxiation, although the medical examiner’s office has not released its final report on the case.

The burning of Canul-Arguello’s body occurred because “I think there was panic” from Diaz about what happened, Lilien said.

“This is a kid with no criminal record,” he said. “It wasn’t a robbery, it was a terrible accident.”

Diaz remains in jail in lieu of $5 million bail. He will return to court on Aug. 12 to set a date for the preliminary hearing.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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