A 36-year-old man was convicted today of murdering--and nearly decapitating--his neighbor at a San Juan Capistrano mobile home park because the killer's mother wrongly outed the victim as a child molester.
Robert Eugene Vasquez, who a jury today also found guilty of assaulting a second man while on the run, faces life without the possibility of parole at his Aug. 23 sentencing in Santa Ana.
Vasquez waited in the bushes outside Bobby Ray Rainwater Jr.'s home the morning of Dec. 1, 2011, to kill the registered sex offender whose crime, despite what Vasquez's mother had said, did not involve children. Rainwater, who helped people around the park with chores, had also said something to Vasquez's girlfriend, who could not make it out but said she felt uncomfortable.
When 54-year-old Rainwater stepped out of the mobile home he shared with his parents for a smoke, Vasquez jumped him, punched the back of his head and then stabbed him several times.
The attacker fled, and when Orange County sheriff's deputies arrived, Rainwater's head was only barely attached to the body.
Two days later, Vasquez was at the San Juan Capistrano home of his friend Lance Lyons. Vasquez went uninvited into the room of the 44-year-old's grandmother, who did not recognize the man and told her grandson the encounter spooked her. Lyons told Vasquez not to go into grandma's room anymore, which prompted Vasquez to pick up a metal mallet and smash in his friend's face.
Vasquez had to be stopped by Lyons' brother from taking a second swing. The first strike had already caused major injuries to Lyons' nose and mouth.
It was revealed during the trial that Vasquez left San Juan Capistrano for refuge in the homes of childhood friends in San Clemente, where one eventually turned him in. He was arrested the same day as the Lyons' attack, and investigators soon linked him to the earlier murder of Rainwater.
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The defense did not dispute Vasquez killed Rainwater, but attorneys argued for a conviction on lesser than first-degree murder.
Besides the false accusation from Vasquez's mother, a sexual assault victim, neighbors had warned him to lock his doors because of Rainwater, defense attorneys said in court.
"I like to try to protect my family. ... He's not going to go in there and rape my [expletive] chick," Vasquez had explained to investigators.