A man accused of killing a hairstylist in San Francisco’s Diamond Heights neighborhood in June made his initial appearance in court today to face murder and residential robbery charges.
James Rickleffs, 45, was arrested on Sunday for allegedly killing Steven “Eriq” Escalon, a 28-year-old man who was found bound and gagged at his apartment in the 5000 block of Diamond Heights Boulevard on the evening of June 12, according to police.
Rickleffs did not enter a plea at this afternoon’s hearing and will return to court on Monday for further arraignment and to appoint an attorney. He is being held in jail on no-bail status.
Prosecutors say Rickleffs met Escalon at 440 Castro, a bar in the city’s Castro District, and then went back to Escalon’s residence early on June 12 after first stopping at an ATM.
Escalon’s roommate came home later that day to find him dead in the apartment, which had been ransacked.
Police said earlier this week that several witnesses had described the suspect who had been seen with Escalon and that one of them identified him as Rickleffs, who was brought in for questioning on Sunday and subsequently arrested.
Items from Escalon’s apartment, including electronics and financial documents, were found in Rickleffs’ possession and investigators also have forensic evidence allegedly linking him to the crime, police said.
Escalon’s Facebook page said that he worked as a cosmetologist at Metamorphosis Salon on Market Street.
District Attorney George Gascon held a news conference after this afternoon’s hearing, saying the case is one of several recently in which victims–primarily gay men–have taken strangers back to their homes from bars in the Castro and then been burglarized or robbed.
“Be very careful who you take home,” Gascon said. “The consequences can be very dire as they were in this particular case.”
Gascon said Rickleffs has a history of low-level offenses, including property crimes and some drug arrests. Police said earlier this week that he was on probation for grand theft at the time of the arrest.
Officials with the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office declined to comment on the case until an attorney is assigned to represent Rickleffs.
Police are seeking anyone who may have had contact with Rickleffs in recent months or may have been the victim of a similar crime.
Anyone with information is encouraged to call Sgt. Scott Warnke or Inspectors Daniel Dedet, Kevin Jones or Robert Valverde in the department’s homicide unit at (415) 553-1145.
People calling after hours can call (415) 553-1071 while those wishing to remain anonymous can call (415) 575-4444 or send a tip by text message to TIP411.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News