Trial begins for Vista man accused in revenge beating death

VISTA (CNS) – Opening statements are expected Thursday in the murder trial of a Vista man accused of beating his girlfriend to death because he found out she had been exposed to the virus that causes AIDS.

Kirk Leon Stapleton, 54, is charged with murder in the August 2013 death of 47-year-old Juanita Kawash.

According to testimony from a preliminary hearing in February, the beating of Kawash allegedly occurred because Stapleton found out she had been exposed to HIV. It was unclear how she was exposed to it or whether she or the defendant ever tested positive for the virus.

The defendant 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 is accused of killing Kawash on Aug. 18, then covering her body in plastic and other debris and leaving 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 records 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, according to published reports.

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