Prosecutor: Man whose body was found in suitcase was tortured, drugged

San Francisco prosecutors allege that a man charged with the murder of a 23-year-old man, whose body was found stuffed in a suitcase discovered in the Bay last week, helped torture the victim along with another suspect after the trio had consensual sex at a Mid-Market neighborhood hotel room.

Gerald Rowe, 47, has been charged with murder, conspiracy, torture, kidnapping, battery, false imprisonment, and possession of a firearm by a felon, as well as drug-related offenses, according to court documents.

Prosecutors allege that Rowe, along with an unnamed co-conspirator, killed George Saldivar at the Donnelly Hotel at 1272 Market St. sometime between Feb. 3 and Feb. 5. Much of the ordeal was captured on video, which investigators recovered from the room. Rowe was arraigned Wednesday and pleaded not guilty.

"At this time, Mr. Rowe maintains his innocence," said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Jacque Wilson. "My understanding is that with Mr. Rowe, the video will clear him of the actual murder act."

Alex Bastian, spokesman for the District Attorney's Office said, "As of right now, this defendant is charged with some very serious charges. The allegations here are some of the most disturbing allegations that you can hear in our world, the criminal justice system."

Referencing the unnamed co-conspirator mentioned in the court documents, Bastian said, "There is another person who is in custody and that person will also be charged."

Rowe's defense team says he's no killer. "What I can say is as we speak, Mr. Rowe is innocent. He's presumed innocent. And, until we have the evidence  the people have the burden to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt. I think they'll have a difficult case," said defense attorney Jacque Wilson.

According to court documents, after the three had consensual sex, the co-conspirator then tied Saldivar's hands behind his back as he sat in a chair.

Rowe then helped the co-conspirator make a noose, which was then placed over Saldivar's neck. The pair then elevated the rope and pulled on it at various times.

A bag was also placed over Saldivar's head, court documents said.

Using a syringe, the co-conspirator injected narcotics, possibly fentanyl, into Saldivar. At that point Saldivar collapsed, court documents allege.

The two then placed Saldivar on the bed and slapped him.

The co-conspirator allegedly retrieved a suitcase from the closet and, with Rowe's help, they placed Saldivar inside, sealing the suitcase with plastic. The suitcase with Saldivar inside remained in the room for an entire day, prosecutors said.

At some point, prosecutors allege, Rowe ate food and played a guitar over the suitcase.

On Feb. 5, around 2:30 a.m., Rowe and the co-conspirator rolled the suitcase out of the room and walked down Market Street, court documents said.

After the suitcase was found on Feb. 18 in the water near 1600 The Embarcadero, investigators identified the body inside as Saldivar's.

Two days later, on Feb. 20, investigators obtained information leading them to the Market Street hotel room, where Rowe was a registered tenant, court documents said.

Rowe was booked into jail last Thursday and he's being held without bail, according to jail records. He is set to reappear in court on Monday.

The name of the co-conspirator has not been released and an arraignment date has not been set.