SANTA ANA (CNS) - A 22-year-old man was sentenced today to 16 years to life in prison for a fatal stabbing attack on a homeless man who was spending the night at a friend's Brea apartment.
Austin Joseph Ambriz was convicted in January of second-degree murder, with a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a deadly weapon, for the April 29, 2018, stabbing death of 21-year-old Luke Lindsey.
“Austin Ambriz brought the knife to a fistfight,'' Senior Deputy District Attorney Whitney Bokosky said in her closing argument as she pushed for a first-degree murder conviction.
The defendant stabbed Lindsey with such force that it “cut Lindsey's vertebrae,'' then left him to bleed to death in the parking lot at 4:30 a.m., Bokosky told jurors.
Lindsey and his girlfriend, Rebecca Stewart, were staying overnight with a friend at the apartment complex at 1717 E. Birch St. that night, Bokosky said. The two, who were both homeless at the time, were living out of a friend's car, she said.
Lindsey's “very good'' friend, Jason Burger, showed up at the apartment complex and bumped into the couple, who were getting food out of a vending machine, Bokosky said.
Burger asked to stay with the couple at their friend's apartment, but they said no one else was allowed so Burger called the friends who dropped him off there to give him a ride home, Bokosky said.
Ambriz was in the car of the friend who agreed to drive Burger home. When they arrived, words were exchanged between Ambriz and Lindsey, with Ambriz saying, “You have a problem with me?'' Bokosky said.
Ambriz got out of the car and approached Lindsey with the knife before the two “square(d) up to fistfight,'' Bokosky said.
“This is not a fistfight that went wrong,'' she said. “This is a cheap shot. It was a sneak attack. Luke squared up to fight and Ambriz stabbed him in the stomach.''
Burger, who recorded the conflict with his phone, said Ambriz erased it while they were driving away, Bokosky said.
She argued that Ambriz lied to jurors in his testimony that he did not intend to kill the victim.
“This is not a case of self-defense,'' Bokosky said. “You don't get to invite someone to a fistfight and pull out a knife. It's not right. It's not fair. You don't get the right to self-defense when you started it.''
If Ambriz was acting in self-defense, he never made any good-faith effort to stop the fight before it escalated, Bokosky said.
Ambriz's attorney, Jeffrey LeBeau, told jurors his client acted in self-defense.
“This is a case about Austin Ambriz defending himself against someone who was bigger, taller, stronger -- someone who had methamphetamine, alcohol and marijuana in his system that night, who repeatedly attacked Austin Ambriz,'' he said.
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