Crime

Boise man accused of stabbing stranger was released from prison 4 months ago

Ruben D. Diaz, 36, of Boise, is accused of attacking a 74-year-old man with a knife. Boise Police said the men do not know each other, and the victim was outside doing yardwork when he was approached by Diaz and stabbed.
Ruben D. Diaz, 36, of Boise, is accused of attacking a 74-year-old man with a knife. Boise Police said the men do not know each other, and the victim was outside doing yardwork when he was approached by Diaz and stabbed. Courtesy of the Ada County Jail

The man accused of stabbing a stranger in the face, hands and neck multiple times on Wednesday was released from prison only four months ago. Ruben Diaz still had 19 years to go before he would have finished serving his parole for previous violence.

Diaz, 36, remains in the Ada County Jail on suspicion of stabbing a 74-year-old man in Southeast Boise, according to Boise police. He has been charged with attempted murder, and his bond has been set at $1 million.

The victim was still hospitalized on Friday. His family set up a GoFundMe page to request help with his medical bills.

“Major tendon and nerve damage to (the victim’s) hands and fingers took place while frantically trying to shield the knife attacks from his face and neck,” the GoFundMe states. “He was unable to block all of the strikes to his face, the worst being a blow to his right cheek that severed the facial nerve to his mouth, limiting his facial movements on that side.”

Diaz was arraigned Friday and has been appointed a public defender, according to a recording of the hearing. Magistrate Judge Karen Vehlow ordered a psychological examination to determine his fitness for trial during the court appearance.

Vehlow also granted a no-contact order stipulating Diaz must stay 500 feet away from the victim and the victim’s address.

What happened?

The alleged assault occurred just before 11 a.m. in the 3900 block of Preamble Place.

Deputy Prosecutor Tamera Kelly on Friday said the victim was outside his home raking leaves. Diaz asked the victim for directions, she said, and “right after that started stabbing and slashing the victim’s head and face multiple times.”

Diaz later admitted to law enforcement that he had bought the knife that morning “for the sole purpose of trying to kill someone,” Kelly said.

Hailey Chavez, a nanny at a house nearby, heard yelling and looked out a window and saw the two men and the altercation that ensued. One seemed to be trying to get away from the other, trying to shove him away, she said. She said she heard the victim call out for help and saw them fall onto the grass in a neighbor’s yard.

That’s when she called police.

“I just saw blood spreading everywhere,” Chavez recalled. It was all over the victim’s face and clothes.

“The older man was yelling the entire time,” she said. She didn’t hear the assailant say anything at any point during the whole ordeal — not to the victim or police.

When police arrived, they said Diaz was still assaulting the man. Two officers struck him with stun guns after he defied orders to drop the knife.

A history of problems

This isn’t the first violent crime Diaz has been accused of. In 2008, he was sentenced on two counts of aggravated battery in Bonneville County. He was ordered to serve up to 30 years in prison for one count that had a weapon enhancement, and up to 15 years in prison for the other count. When he was paroled four months ago, his sentence would not have been complete until that parole finished in 2037.

The judge in the Bonneville County cases, 7th District Judge Jon Shindurling, ordered Diaz to serve two years and six months for each charge before he was eligible for parole, according to Bonneville County records. Ultimately, he was in prison 10 years before he was released.

The Statesman on Friday requested copies of documents connected to the Bonneville County assaults but did not receive an immediate response.

The Idaho Statesman reviewed other aspects of Diaz’s prior cases on Friday and found that Diaz has a court-ordered conservator because of developmental delays and mental illness. He has been diagnosed with autism and schizophrenia.

In 2008, Diaz’s mother, Sandra Kaiser, was appointed his legal guardian.

On Jan. 24, 2017, the state parole commission granted Diaz his release. He was still imprisoned as of September 2017, when Kaiser petitioned a judge to review her son’s detention — noting the commission’s decision.

Her petition files included a copy of the parole decision. It said Diaz would be released upon completion of programming, but only to an assisted living facility. Special conditions of his release included that he take medication, according to the document.

Kaiser’s request for a writ of habeas corpus was ultimately dismissed — such a petition can only be filed by the inmate himself or by an attorney, not by a legal guardian, the judge on the case ruled.

Sandy Jones, executive director of the parole commission, told the Statesman in an email Friday that the reason it took so long to release Diaz was because “it took that long to find him a suitable residence and arrange for his disability benefits.” She said those requirements are common if an offender has clear disabilities and no reasonable family support.

Diaz, since July, has lived at CTM Assisted Living, also called the Hancock House, a small assisted living facility in Boise, a state correctional spokesman confirmed. The facility is only a few blocks away from where the stabbing incident occurred at the victim’s house.

Assistant Manager Mitch Blanton said the facility houses nine residents, all of whom need mental health care. He said the facility did not have any major prior incidents with Diaz, and that Diaz was quiet and interacted well with those at the home.

“Everyone here is in a state of shock,” Blanton said. “It was completely out of character from everything we’ve seen.”

The victim’s family declined to be interviewed on Friday, saying they were awaiting further police investigation.

“My father is a model citizen, diligent American, Vietnam Vet and most importantly has the characteristics of a good man,” the GoFundMe states.

Diaz’s next scheduled court appearance is a preliminary hearing at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 15. During such a hearing, a magistrate judge decides whether there is enough evidence to send a case to district court and a full trial.

Correction: The street address of the assisted living home where Diaz resided has been removed from this story.

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