FLORENCE — The Pinal County jail guard stabbed 21 times last year told jurors on Monday about the day he thought he was going to die.
Lt. Sergio Antolin testified in Pinal County Superior Court to being assaulted by two inmates on Sept. 7, 2016, while doing a security check in one of the jail’s units.
He identified Robert Villalobos, 29, and Santiago Sanchez, 27, as his assailants. They sat across from him in the courtroom, each facing a charge of conspiring to commit first-degree murder.
The defendants were indicted shortly after the attack with other charges that included aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and promoting prison contraband.
A third inmate, 25-year-old Mauricio Moraga, was also indicted as taking part in the conspiracy.
Antolin claims when he entered the unit that day one of the defendants yelled out, “Lieutenant in the pod.”
This was unusual, he said, because never in his many years of experience in corrections had an inmate made that kind of announcement before.
He recalled Villalobos and Sanchez approaching him as he continued his check of the unit. He heard footsteps coming from behind and remembered Villalobos saying, “Get that mother-----.”
“I knew I was about ready to fight,” said Antolin, who was not armed with a weapon that day.
The three men proceeded to get into a scuffle. Antolin had thought the two men were punching him repeatedly. It wasn’t until he ran out of the unit that he realized he’d been stabbed multiple times in the back.
From all the blood emanating out of his wounds, he said it looked like somebody poured a gallon of red paint on his shirt.
“I thought for sure I was going to die,” he said.
The lieutenant was transported to a hospital by helicopter. He said he refused pain medication offered by paramedics because he didn’t want it to inhibit his last moments alive.
He told a fellow officer traveling with him in the helicopter to tell his family that he loved them.
Antolin spent the next month recovering from his injuries. Court documents show the cost of his medical expenses was about $117,000.
Antolin said he didn’t remember seeing Villalobos or Sanchez holding weapons during the attack. Other evidence presented at trial indicates the victim was stabbed 21 times with knives carved out of materials cut from jail beds.
The jury was shown photographs of the inmates’ bed frames where small pieces were missing.
Antolin said he distinctly remembered seeing Sanchez smile at him after the attack and before being taken to the hospital.
Prosecutors rested their case Monday and the defense called no witnesses to testify. The three defendants each chose not to get on the witness stand.
Attorneys finished up closing arguments Monday.