MANCHESTER — A former Manchester man charged 17 years ago with first-degree assault for stabbing another man in the heart was convicted Thursday after a jury deliberated for a single hour.
James Baker, the man Franky Rojas stabbed in the heart on Dec. 4, 1996, at 455 Pine St., survived because of the medical intervention of physicians at Elliot Hospital who resuscitated him and then did emergency surgery to repair his damaged heart.
Rojas, 59, aka Raymond Gonzalez, now of New York, was arrested in 1996 and charged with the stabbing. However, he fled the state in 1998 when he was released from the Valley Street jail after his bail was changed. He didn’t show for his scheduled January 1998 trial and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
It wasn’t until 2012 that authorities learned he was in prison in New York being held under the name Raymond Gonzalez, with an age then of 58. Rojas’ identity was confirmed with fingerprints, and he was returned to New Hampshire to stand trial for the 1996 assault.
According to Hillsborough County Attorney Patricia M. LaFrance, Dr. Richard Marcucci, who is now the medical director of the emergency department at the Elliot Hospital, testified that Baker arrived at the hospital with no pulse.
Marcucci and other physicians opened his chest and made emergency repairs to his heart. The doctor said the knife penetrated Baker’s right ventricle and also cut his heart’s septum, which divides the left and right ventricle. The doctors were able to resuscitate him and Baker then underwent emergency surgery.
Marcucci testified that he remembers the case because of the rarity of saving someone from such a major injury.
Authorities said the day of the assault Baker and his wife went to the room where Rojas was staying after partying with him the night before. Baker’s wife testified Rojas opened the door and lunged forward with a knife, stabbing Baker in the chest. She said Rojas glared at her and she thought he might attack her, but instead he went back into his room with a “crazy” look in his eye. Baker stumbled down the hall toward his room and collapsed.
Rojas fled the building with the knife, which he tossed, and then was arrested by police, who also recovered the weapon.
Rojas, who represented himself at trial, maintained he acted in self-defense. He said Baker came to his room and maliciously attacked him with a stick. He told the jury he was entitled to use deadly force because he was in his dwelling.
He acknowledged that after he stabbed Baker, he quickly dressed and left the building, taking the knife with him.
He also admitted he used many aliases over the years, likening it to “actors in a movie.”
Rojas denied he fled from authorities, saying he went to a party in New York and merely forgot about the trial. He said he was not trying to avoid the warrant that was issued in 1998 because he been imprisoned in New York since 1998.
Prosecutors said he refused to give his real name during the two-day trial in Hillsborough County Superior Court.
Rojas faces 71/2 to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced in about 30 days.