Man to be tried for ‘horrific’ hatchet attack

ESCONDIDO — A former Border Patrol agent accused of attacking two people with a hatchet in what prosecutors say was a “sadistic” and “premeditated” attack will have to stand trial for attempted murder, a San Diego Superior Court judge ruled Dec. 14.
After a day of testimony in a Vista courtroom, Judge Joan Weber said she found enough evidence to support the handful of charges, which include attempted murder and torture, filed against Gamalier Reyes Rivera relating to a July 9 assault on two sleeping victims, who prosecutors believe he mistook for his estranged wife and her boyfriend, because the room was dark.
Weber pointed toward a 2005 letter Rivera, of Imperial Beach, wrote to his ex-wife detailing how he was going to kill her and incidents of stalking as indicators that Rivera had in fact attacked the wrong couple in the house.
“His intent was to go up there and kill those two people in the bedroom,” Weber said.
Further, she added Rivera had purposely left his television on inside his residence and took a cab to the crime scene to make it look like he never left his home that evening. “He clearly had a plan in mind to do a stealth attack on his ex-wife and her boyfriend.”
Rivera, 33, and his wife divorced in 2005 after three years of marriage, but then reconciled in 2007 only to divorce again in 2008, according to court testimony. A judge ordered Rivera’s wages to be garnished of $2,200 a month for child and spousal support the day before the attack.
Escondido Police responded to the crime scene in the 800 block of South Upas Street around 1:15 a.m. July 9, where they found two hand hatchets.
Witnesses identified Rivera, who was arrested shortly after the incident near 9th and Pine streets in Escondido, as the sole attacker.
The two victims suffered significant injuries from the multiple hacks to their body from the hatchet.
Christopher Anguiano, then 29, was slashed in the head, back and torso. He now suffers from brain damage and is partially blind due to the attack. Samantha Shaffer, then 21, lost part of her toe from the attack to her legs and foot.
Rivera’s attorney, Charles Luckman, didn’t dispute his client attacked the two victims; however, he said he believed the case should only be filed as an assault with a deadly weapon, because the victims were not his intended targets.
In his argument for the attempted murder charges, Deputy District Attorney George Loyd said it didn’t matter if Rivera mistakenly attacked the wrong people, because he stood directly in front of the victims and swung numerous times at them with a hatchet.
“You can’t swing a hatchet at another person without expecting to injure or kill someone,” Loyd said.
Rivera, 33, is charged with two counts each of torture and aggravated mayhem as well as one count each of attempted murder, burglary and assault.
When he is arraigned Dec. 30, prosecutors will replace the aforementioned assault charge with another attempted murder count.
If convicted, Rivera, who remains in custody, faces up to life in prison, Loyd said.

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