Man who beat girlfriend to death, dumped body sentenced

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VISTA, Calif. — A North County man who beat his girlfriend to death after he found out that she had exposed him to the AIDS virus was sentenced Tuesday to 26 years to life in state prison.

Kirk Leon Stapleton, 55, was convicted Oct. 22 of first-degree murder in the August 2013 death of 47-year-old Juanita Kawash.

According to court testimony, Stapleton beat Kawash after he discovered she had been exposed to HIV. It was unclear how the victim was exposed to the virus or whether she or Stapleton ever tested positive for it.

Stapleton killed Kawash on Aug. 18, 2013, then covered her body in plastic and other debris and left it behind a shopping center trash bin in the 1400 block of North Santa Fe Avenue.

An autopsy showed she died of blunt force injuries, likely inflicted the day before her body was discovered on Aug. 19.

Stapleton was already jailed on unrelated allegations when he was re- arrested Sept. 4, 2013, on suspicion of murder based on DNA evidence, according to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

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