Man arrested in Waller Creek trail stabbing accused in previous assaults in same area

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Editor’s Note: Austin police clarified Tuesday that the victim is a transgender woman and KXAN has updated this story accordingly.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A 30-year-old man was arrested Wednesday after he allegedly stabbed a woman, leaving organs exposed, according to an affidavit filed in court.

Officials say at 1:40 a.m. Wednesday, Darnel Esco was walking down Waller Creek Trail when he came across a homeless camp under the East Eighth Street bridge near the 700 block, according to Austin Police Department’s Detective Muchnikoff.

Esco allegedly approached four people, a witness told police. Esco allegedly had been in the area for a few weeks and “had been causing problems with individuals.”

The witness said Esco aggressively asked her where one of her friends was and she told him to leave the person he was looking for alone.

In response, Esco allegedly said, “I’m going to stab [the victim],” according to an affidavit.

Esco allegedly also demanded drugs or money from the four people and they told police they refused and told him he was no longer welcome at the camp.

The witness said as Esco was leaving, he threateningly told the witness and the others, “you’ll see.”

Just a few minutes later, the witness said she heard screaming coming farther down Waller Creek. She claimed a nearby homeless person told her, “Ma’ma I think there’s somebody dead under the bridge, someone’s been stabbed.”

The witness told police she called 911 at about 1:50 a.m. and pointed out the injured woman who was about 250 feet away from the campsite. She also gave police a description of Esco.

Officials found the victim with two stab wounds and bone fractures to the back of the head. Other vital organs were also damaged.

The victim gave police a short description of the suspect, but couldn’t provide more information because of how badly she was injured. Police say the victim’s description matched the witnesses’ description of the suspect.

Footage from a surveillance camera showed Esco walking around the area. He was the only person in the area that matched the suspect’s description, police wrote in court documents.

Police used the footage to follow Esco as he walked to the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless. Officers went to the ARCH where they found and detained him Wednesday morning.

Esco told police after he walked around East Sixth Street, he got a drink at a bar near the entrance to the Waller Creek trail. 

He then claimed he was at the ARCH all day and night after drinking at the bar. He admitted he walked on the Waller Creek trail between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Police wrote that Esco was “largely uncooperative” and “refused to answer any further questions.”

His story did not match what police saw in the video and he was unaccounted for about 17 minutes during the time the victim was stabbed. The footage showed Esco in the area of the homeless camp during the timeframe of the assault.

On Thursday morning, APD Detectives spoke with the victim who was in the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital. She couldn’t remember most of the previous night but did remember “interacting,” with a man that matched Esco’s description.

Police say Esco had two previous assault charges, one of which was in February of this year that hurt a man. Both allegedly occurred in the same area as the most recent stabbing.

Esco is facing a new second-degree felony aggravated assault charge in connection with this stabbing and is being held at Travis County Jail on $150,000 bond.

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