Report: Stylist died
from GHB, nitrates
by Seth Hemmelgarn
A gay hairstylist found bound and gagged in his Diamond Heights apartment last year died from GHB and nitrate intoxication, according to the San Francisco Medical Examiner's office's recently completed report.
A roommate found Steven "Eriq" Escalon, 28, dead in their home June 12, 2012. James Edward Rickleffs, 46, was arrested September 2 in the killing and has pleaded not guilty to murder and first-degree residential robbery.
The medical examiner's report lists the cause of death as "complications of acute mixed drug (nitrates and Gamma-Hydroxybutyric Acid) intoxication with possible asphyxia." The report lists the method of death as drug-related asphyxia.
A twisted piece of cloth that "smelled strongly of apparent amyl nitrate" and that had reportedly been in Escalon's mouth was near his head when a medical examiner's investigator arrived at the home, the file says. Besides GHB and nitrate, the only other drugs that were in Escalon's system were caffeine and nicotine, according to the documents.
Rickleffs allegedly met Escalon at the bar 440 Castro and took a cab with him back to Escalon's home early on the morning he died.
Citing information from police, the medical examiner's report says one of Escalon's roommates left for work at approximately 8 a.m. When he got home at about 6 p.m., the door to the apartment was open a little, and the house had been "ransacked," the file says.
Most of the rooms "appeared as if someone had been rooting through drawers, and searching for something," according to the report. Authorities have said items missing from the apartment included a laptop, jewelry, and financial documents.
The roommate found Escalon "unresponsive on his bed," the medical examiner's file says. His hands and feet had been bound, the cloth gag was in his mouth, and he'd been wrapped in a blanket. A responding police officer tried to resuscitate Escalon, but he was soon declared dead.
The report says a shirt had been tied around Escalon's lower legs with "a complex knot," and duct tape had been wrapped around the shirt and his legs. There was also tape around his torso, and zip ties that first responders appear to have cut were lying next to him.
Aside from marks on Escalon's wrists from the zip ties, "no evidence of obvious external trauma" was noted at the scene, and further examination revealed "no acute fatal traumatic injuries," according to the file. The medical examiner's office determined the manner of death to be homicide.
People who knew Escalon have described him as outgoing and thoughtful.
The medical examiner's report indicates he didn't take the nitrate voluntarily, and in an email sent by a relative this week, Esmeralda Escalon, his mother, said he didn't use GHB.
"He drank and liked to have a good time socially and smoked cigarettes," she said.
Skye Emerson, 28, a friend of Escalon's, said in an email, "Seeing him out laughing and having a great time with a few cocktails was very normal," but Escalon "never used drugs."
A police source has said DNA was among the evidence linking Rickleffs to Escalon's death, but it's not clear what type of DNA evidence was found.
The next court hearing for Rickleffs, who remains in custody, is Monday, February 25.