Frank Aguilar and William Rowe Jr., panhandlers both, were drinking together on Feb. 22, outside a liquor store on Sunset Boulevard, when they began to argue. Shoving soon escalated to blows.
Aguilar, 32, the drunker and weaker of the two, got the worst of it and fell to the sidewalk. Rowe, 38, savagely and repeatedly kicked him about the head and stomach, then walked away as if nothing had happened.
Witnesses called for an ambulance and Aguilar was taken to UCLA Medical Center where he died four weeks later. An autopsy showed he was suffering from liver disease, acute kidney failure and blood poisoning. The cause of death was listed as blows to the head and abdomen.
Detectives eventually arrested Rowe, and he was charged with murder. Rowe had served time before, for burglary and grand theft.
Rowe told Detective Ernie Basset that he did not intend to kill Aguilar and was only defending himself, but lost control.
Rowe pleaded not guilty. On June 28, records show, he changed his plea after the murder charge was reduced to involuntary manslaughter, punishable by two, three or four years in state prison.
Superior Court Judge Clarence E. (Red) Stromwell then sentenced Rowe to a three-year term. With various time credits, he will serve less than 18 months for taking another man’s life.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard Size said the sentence was a just one. He said he negotiated a plea because he feared a jury might not believe that Rowe had acted with malice or that the beating actually had caused Aguilar’s death, given his poor health.
“There was no way we could have proved murder in this case,” the prosecutor said.