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A man accused of killing a hairstylist in San Francisco’s Diamond Heights neighborhood in June pleaded not guilty this morning to murder and residential robbery charges, prosecutors said. James Rickleffs, 45, was arrested on Sept. 2 in connection with the death of Steven “Eriq” Escalon, a 28-year-old man who was found bound and gagged in his apartment in the 5000 block of Diamond Heights Boulevard on the evening of June 12, according to police. Rickleffs, who was on probation for grand theft at the time of the arrest, is being held on no-bail status and will return to court on Oct. 1 for a status hearing in the case, district attorney’s office spokesman Alex Bastian said. Prosecutors say Rickleffs met Escalon at 440 Castro, a bar in the city’s Castro District, and then went back to Escalon’s residence earlier on June 12.
Escalon’s roommate eventually found his body and that the apartment had been ransacked. Several witnesses described the suspect who had been seen earlier with Escalon, with one of them identifying him as Rickleffs, police said. Items from Escalon’s apartment, including electronics and financial documents, were found in Rickleffs’ possession and police also say they have forensic evidence linking him to the crime. Escalon worked as a cosmetologist at Metamorphosis Salon on Market Street, according to his Facebook page. District Attorney George Gascon said last week that Escalon’s death is part of a series of robberies and burglaries recently in which the victims have taken strangers back to their homes from bars in the Castro. Investigators are still seeking more information about Rickleffs, as well as anyone who may have been the victim of a similar crime.
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