BANNING — A 30-year-old Desert Hot Springs man who tried to kill his father by severely beating him and setting fire to his mobile home as he lay unconscious on the floor was convicted Thursday of attempted murder and other charges.
A Banning jury deliberated less than a day before finding Miguel Angel Espino guilty of the attempted murder count, as well as arson, aggravated mayhem and sentence-enhancing weapon allegations in the 2018 attack on Arturo Espino Sr.
Jurors went behind closed doors to weigh evidence from the roughly weeklong trial on Wednesday afternoon. They returned Thursday and informed Riverside County Superior Court Judge Francisco Navarro before lunch that they had reached a unanimous decision.
The judge scheduled a sentencing hearing for Jan. 18. Espino is being held without bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.
According to a trial brief filed by the District Attorney’s Office, the defendant and his dad argued regularly and sometimes engaged in physical altercations, most of which stemmed from the younger Espino’s tempestuous behavior.
Prior incidents included uncontrolled outbursts leading to vandalism of the elder man’s mobile home. There was also an instance in which neighbors witnessed Miguel Espino pin his father’s arms behind his back and drag him across a roadway in the mobile home park where Arturo Espino and his wife resided on the 15600 block of Palm Drive in Desert Hot Springs, according to court papers.
On the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2018, there was another blowup at the residence, where only the father and son were present. According to the brief, the confrontation led to the defendant using a hammer to pummel his father about the head, inflicting major trauma.
Prosecutors said that after the victim dropped to the floor unconscious, Miguel Espino grabbed a pile of clothes and used flammable liquids in the residence to set them ablaze in the hallway. Then he fled.
Neighbors spotted the smoke and rushed into the burning structure, containing the fire with an extinguisher and calling 911.
They pulled the unconscious victim outside, and county fire personnel arrived moments later, completely knocking down the smoldering blaze, according to the prosecution. An arson investigator immediately determined the fire had been intentionally set.
Arturo Espino was taken to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, where he remained comatose for days before regaining consciousness.
In the meantime, Desert Hot Springs police and Cal Fire arson investigators identified Miguel Espino as the perpetrator based on conversations with neighbors and his mother, who had moved out of the mobile home park and obtained a restraining order against her son for fear of her life and property.
On Aug. 8, 2018, the defendant was located and taken into custody without incident. He denied hurting his father, but jail recorded conversations between Miguel Espino and his mom confirmed he had attacked the victim, according to the prosecution.
The brief included a transcript of a conversation in which Espino claimed his dad tried to assault him with a knife, and he in turn struck the victim with a rock and hammer.
He also told investigators someone else had been in the residence and ignited the fire.
The defendant had no documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County.
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