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Man arrested, accused of stabbing wife

After being released from jail following a previous altercation, he went to his wife's home and stabbed her 11 times, police say. He now is charged with attempted murder.

By TAMARA LUSH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 18, 2003

TAMPA -- Six hours after his release from jail on a domestic battery charge, a man broke into his former home and stabbed his wife 11 times in the chest and face, nearly killing her, police said.

Israel Vargas, 44, also stabbed his teenage daughter twice before she ran to a nearby apartment and screamed for help, according to police.

Neighbors ran outside, where they saw Vargas attacking his wife with a kitchen knife, police said.

One man punched Vargas in the head several times, police spokeswoman Katie Hughes said.

"There's a good chance that (the neighbor) saved her life," Hughes said. "Thank God we still have citizens who care about each other."

Vargas ran away, but was arrested a few minutes later.

Vargas' wife, Cecilia Muniz, was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where she was in stable condition Thursday. Her daughter, 13, suffered minor injuries and is staying with relatives.

Police said the couple have been married more than a dozen years. On April 2, Vargas showed up at Westshore Plaza, where his wife works in maintenance. Muniz said Vargas pushed her, but he denied it. Muniz called Tampa police, but did not seek a restraining order against Vargas, records show.

Officers arrested him on a misdemeanor domestic battery charge. He spent two weeks in jail, with bail set at $500. On Wednesday, the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office decided not to file charges.

Assistant State Attorney Pam Bondi said there were no witnesses and no evidence of any bruises or injuries to Muniz.

"It was a he-said, she-said," Bondi said.

Vargas now is charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery. He was being held in jail without bail Thursday.

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