Jury deliberations are expected to get under way today in the trial of a Pala man accused of raping and repeatedly stabbing his 27-year-old fiancee at a Temecula mall, where he was subdued by a Riverside County sheriff’s sergeant who allegedly caught him in the act.
Mickey David Wagstaff, 27, could face life in prison without parole if convicted of first-degree murder and a special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a sexual assault in the death of Elizabeth “Bipsy” Kellenbarger Amirian.
The defense rested its case Tuesday, and closing arguments are slated for this morning, after which jurors will go behind closed doors to review evidence from the nearly 2-week-long trial.
Wagstaff is being held without bail at the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.
The defendant allegedly raped Amirian while she was locked in his Toyota Previa in a parking garage at The Promenade mall. The couple had been arguing about marriage plans and whether it was appropriate to have sex before exchanging vows, according to sheriff’s investigators.
Prosecutors allege Wagstaff forced the victim to stay with him during the two days leading up to the assault, driving to different locations before finally arriving in Temecula. At one point, the defendant allegedly bound the woman’s ankles to keep her from running away.
Moments after the alleged rape, a sheriff’s sergeant — in response to a request by mall security — approached Wagstaff’s vehicle and tapped on the window to check on the welfare of the occupants.
Sgt. Keith Knotek testified during a December 2009 preliminary hearing that when Wagstaff saw him standing there, the defendant took out a knife and began plunging it into Amirian.
Knotek said he smashed a window and deployed a Taser to stop the attack, which lasted more than a minute.
Amirian, who was stabbed 39 times in the head, back and neck, died at the scene.
Wagstaff’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Renee Rupp, argued that her client had not planned to kill his fiancee but panicked when he saw the law enforcement officer.