Assailant gets 16 years to life for fatal stabbing in Pacific Beach restroom

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Martin Alvarez, 36, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for the Aug. 16, 2020, slaying of Michael Wagley, 39


A man who fatally stabbed another man in a public restroom along the Pacific Beach boardwalk was sentenced Wednesday to 16 years to life in state prison.

Martin Alvarez, 36, pleaded guilty in San Diego Superior Court to second-degree murder for the Aug. 16, 2020, slaying of Michael Wagley, 39.

Wagley was found mortally wounded at about 7:30 p.m. in the restroom by the beach at Grand Avenue and Ocean Boulevard, near the main lifeguard station in Pacific Beach.

He was taken to a hospital, where he died.

Prosecutors allege Alvarez attacked the victim from behind, stabbed him in the neck with a blade from a multi-tool, then stabbed the victim several more times while he lay on the ground.

At Alvarez’s sentencing hearing, his lawyer Pedro Garcia read a letter written by his client. In it, Alvarez stated that he went to the restroom to rinse off the multi-tool and then work on his bike.

Once in the bathroom, Alvarez wrote, he saw Wagley — a person Alvarez believed had tried to steal his backpack a few days earlier.

“I got scared and in the heat of the moment, I reacted. I didn’t realize I was reacting with the multi-tool in my hand,” Alvarez wrote.

He said in the letter that he knew he had been in an altercation, but didn’t realize until later what had actually happened.

After the stabbing, witnesses reported seeing a man fleeing on a bicycle, according to San Diego police. The department said Alvarez was detained in the area and arrested.

At Alvarez’s arraignment in August 2020, Deputy District Attorney George Modlin said the defendant had been released from prison less than three weeks before the attack on Wagley.

At the time, the state was trying to stem the spread of COVID-19 inside prisons, and officials cut the sentences of some qualifying inmates who had less than six months left on their time. Alvarez was among those inmates. He was released 80 days early.

Staff writer Teri Figueroa contributed to this story.