Who was Diego Stolz? Bullies who punched Californian orphan to death now free to enjoy Christmas with families

Despite the two teens admitting to involuntary manslaughter and assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, they are free on bail until their February sentencing


                            Who was Diego Stolz? Bullies who punched Californian orphan to death now free to enjoy Christmas with families
(Police handout)

MORENO VALLEY, CALIFORNIA: Two 14-year-olds who admitted to the 2019 killing of Diego Stolz, a 13-year-old orphan are reportedly free to enjoy Christmas with their families. The juvenile killers who have remained unnamed in the press made this admission at a November 12 hearing in Riverside, California.

Despite the two teens admitting to involuntary manslaughter and assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, they are free on bail until their February sentencing, as per news reports. John Hall, a spokesman for the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, revealed on Wednesday, November 18, that one teen is set to be sentenced on February 10 and the other on February 16.

Speaking at court on Wednesday, community activist Alicia Espinoza expressed she was thankful that the bullies pleaded guilty. She said, however, “they get to come home, celebrate Christmas and be with their family. Diego doesn’t get that privilege.”

Who was Diego Stolz?

In 2019, Stolz, who was an eighth-grader at Landmark Middle School, along with an adult cousin, went to Assistant Principal Kamilah O’Connor to report a bullying incident, which had been reported by a teacher and allegedly captured on video. According to Stolz’s family, O’Connor told him the two boys’ schedules would be changed so they wouldn’t share classes with him and they would be suspended.

Three days later, Stolz was attacked by the two bullies. He was reportedly sucker-punched; his head struck a pillar and he fell to the ground, unconscious. The two continued punching him. He suffered major trauma and was pronounced brain dead and taken off life support a week later. Diego’s uncle and aunt, Felipe and Juana Salcedo, became his guardians after his mother died in 2007. Diego’s father died in 2014. The couple cared for Diego and his siblings.

As per reports, Stolz was constantly bullied, ever since he was in seventh grade at Landmark Middle School. The mistreatment that began with verbal insults and taking of the victim's belongings, however, later escalated to physical assault when Stolz entered eighth grade in August 2019. Stolz's aunt filed "multiple complaints'' at Landmark in the 2018-19 academic year and in the first month of the 2019-20 school year, but her concerns were allegedly ignored. 

On September 12, 2019, one of the boys cornered and punched Diego in the chest, threatening to inflict further physical harm. Following this Stolz went to a science teacher and complained. "This teacher saw his emotional state and knew there was something wrong, but there was nothing done,” Attorney David Ring, who represents Stolz’s family, said. When Stolz told his aunt about the assault, her adult daughter, Jazmin Salcedo, took the boy to school the next day and addressed the matter with administrators. The following Monday, the fatal attack took place.

In addition to the criminal case, Stolz’s family has sued the families of both boys and the school district. Ring told the press earlier this year, “They want the district to enact and enforce some real stringent anti-bullying policies. The ones that were in place were so simplistic, barely enforced, and were basically meaningless.”

He said that the family believes the district hasn’t taken responsibility for creating a climate where the kind of violence that claimed Stolz’s life could take place. “This was absolutely 100 percent preventable by the school district if they had just done their job,” Ring said. “They had crystal clear information and they had it on video. The kid comes up behind him, punches him in the head, and Diego does all the right things. He reports it, goes to a teacher, is told the kids will be suspended and won’t come back to school. That was on Friday and Monday he comes back and is killed.”

Back in October 2019, around one month after the incident, the Southern California school district made changes in the middle school's administration. The Moreno Valley Unified School District replaced Principal Scott Walker and Assistant Principal Kamilah O’Connor at Landmark Middle School.

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