Family of victim in fatal Empire stabbing speak in court

01/14/2014 7:52 PM

01/14/2014 7:54 PM

Christian Chavez said in court Tuesday that he didn’t know the man convicted of stabbing his brother, and that he doesn’t know what led to the deadly attack in Empire more than a year ago.

He said his brother, Manuel Chavez, had a troubled life that caused them to grow apart. But he used to hope his brother could change his ways one day. Now, there’s no hope for that.

“I don’t know how you can take someone’s life away so easily,” Christian Chavez said about his brother’s death. “And his life was taken in cold blood.”

Manuel Chavez’s family gave victim impact statements in court shortly before Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Nancy Ashley sentenced defendant Frank Phillip Marcrum to 11 years in prison for killing Chavez.

As part of a plea deal, Marcrum, 23, pleaded no contest on Dec. 3 to voluntary manslaughter and avoided a trial that had not been rescheduled. He initially was charged with murder in Chavez’s death with an enhancement of using a knife in the attack, which was dropped in accordance with the deal.

Manuel Chavez was stabbed about 4:30 p.m. Nov. 4, 2012, according to Deputy District Attorney Jared Carrillo, who prosecuted the case. Chavez used to live in a detached room behind his mother’s home on South Abbie Street in Empire.

The prosecutor said Chavez was stabbed once in the chest at his home. The injured man made it outside and collapsed a few feet away from the home. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Stanislaus County sheriff’s officials have said some witnesses heard an argument between Chavez and his attacker, and when they went out to see what was happening, they found Chavez injured on the ground.

Marcrum was taken into custody three days after the stabbing and booked at the jail on unrelated charges. He remained at the jail for six months awaiting prosecution as investigators looked for witnesses in the stabbing. Prosecutors filed the murder charge against Marcrum on May 10.

The defendant told others that he was angry at Chavez for failing to “put money on his books,” which means adding money to Marcrum’s jail inmate account to buy items while in custody, according to the prosecutor.

Marcrum told detectives that he had stayed at Chavez’s home before, and that Chavez had loaned him clothing and money in the past. According to Carrillo, Marcrum said he was at Chavez’s home Nov. 4, 2012, but denied being there when Chavez was stabbed.

Christian Chavez said in court that he hopes Marcrum can use the time in prison to think about his life and try to change it for the better. “I’m not ready to forgive him yet, but I hope someday I can,” Christian Chavez said about the defendant.

As the Chavez family spoke in court, Marcrum sat with his head leaned back, staring at the ceiling and the wall. He appeared to want to avoid eye contact with the victim’s family members as they spoke a few feet to the left of him.

At one point, the defendant started fidgeting in his seat so much that two bailiffs had to restrain him. He appeared uncomfortable as he heard Chavez’s mother speak for more than 15 minutes.

Teresa Chavez called the man who stabbed her son an “assassin” and an “animal.” She told the judge that Marcrum gutted her family and left her brokenhearted. “Those people don’t deserve to live – people who do harm to innocent people,” the victim’s mother said in Spanish. “My son was unarmed, and this coward was armed.”

Susana Ayala, the victim’s sister, said she recognizes that her brother had a troubled life, but that he shouldn’t have been stabbed outside his mother’s home. “My brother did not deserve to be brutally stabbed in cold blood,” Ayala said in court.

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