A 20-year-old San Diego man accused of fatally stabbing a well-liked Ocean Beach transient after getting into a fight with his girlfriend must stand trial on a murder charge, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Noah Mitchell Jackson was arrested in Orange County in February in connection with the June 22, 2017, slaying of 65-year-old Walter “Ras” Riley.
Just before 12:30 a.m. that day, a 911 caller reported that one man was attacking another in the 1900 block of Bacon Street, San Diego police homicide Lt. Todd Griffin said. Responding officers found Riley lying on the sidewalk with stab wounds to his upper body.
The victim — an Ohio native nicknamed “the Incense Man” due to his practice of selling aromatic burning sticks at local farmers’ markets — was taken to UCSD Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. Riley was a peaceful and friendly fixture on the streets of his adopted coastal hometown, according to area residents and merchants.
Investigators working to identify the killer released surveillance footage that showed a white or Hispanic man dressed in baggy blue jeans and a light-colored gray hooded sweatshirt. A security camera at a nearby business captured images of the suspect shortly before the fatal assault took place. After mortally injuring Riley, the assailant fled a short distance to the south, then to the east on Newport Avenue.
Jackson was located in Huntington Beach and arrested by SDPD detectives with the help of local police and the U.S. Marshals Service.
During the two-day preliminary hearing, Deputy District Attorney Michael Reilly presented evidence that included testimony from an informant who wore a recording device when he spoke to Jackson at the request of police.
In the recording, Jackson told the informant that his sister had been insulted and spit on by the victim, and Jackson said he returned to the crime scene and “handled it.”
A good friend of Jackson’s testified that the defendant told him that he got into an argument with his girlfriend and then went out and stabbed a “homeless guy.”
Defense attorney Eugene Iredale unsuccessfully argued that the case against Jackson be dismissed, telling Judge Steven Stone that still photos of the suspect taken from surveillance video did not look like Jackson.
The attorney also said the time sequence presented by the prosecution didn’t put his client at the crime scene.
Iredale said Jackson was a “troubled, foolish, (then-19-year-old) boy with a substance abuse problem,” but not a murderer.
Jackson faces 26 years to life if convicted. He will be back in court Aug. 22.
— City News Service
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