Man convicted of first-degree murder for beating girlfriend to death

VISTA (CNS) – A Vista man who beat his girlfriend to death because he found out she had been exposed to the AIDS virus was convicted Wednesday of first-degree murder.

Kirk Leon Stapleton, 54, faces 26 years to life in prison when he is sentenced Dec. 8 for the August 2013 death of 47-year-old Juanita Kawash.

According to court testimony in February, Stapleton beat Kawash after he discovered she had been exposed to HIV. It was unclear how the victim was exposed to the virus or whether she or Stapleton ever tested positive for it.

Stapleton was already jailed on unrelated allegations when he was re-arrested Sept. 4, 2013, on suspicion of murder based on DNA evidence, according to San Diego County sheriff’s Lt. Glenn Giannantonio.

Stapleton killed Kawash on Aug. 18 last year, then covered her body in plastic and other debris and left it behind a shopping center trash bin in the 1400 block of North Santa Fe Avenue, the lieutenant said.

An autopsy showed she died of blunt force injuries, likely inflicted the day before her body was discovered on Aug. 19.

Stapleton’s criminal record includes a prison stint for beating up one of his brothers in 2011 and at least six convictions since 1986 for drug and theft crimes.

Categories: KUSI