Hearing set for suspects in killings

Investigators continue searching for motive in deaths of 3 children

June 01, 2004|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

Two men charged with killing three young children in a Park Heights apartment last week are scheduled for bail review hearings today in Baltimore District Court, even as new details emerge about the children's deaths.

The state medical examiner's office said yesterday that 9-year-old Ricardo Solis Quezada Jr. and his 10-year-old cousin, Alexis Espejo Quezada, both died from asphyxia, cutting and blunt-force trauma to the head. Ricardo's 9-year-old sister, Lucero Solis Quezada, suffered cutting and blunt force trauma to the head.

Police have said that one of the children was decapitated and the others partially decapitated.

Policarpio Espinoza, 22, and Adan Espinoza Canela, 17, are each charged with three counts of murder and are scheduled to appear at 2 p.m. at the Wabash Avenue courthouse.

Their scheduled appearance comes as the families of Lucero, Ricardo and Alexis look for a way to have the children's bodies sent home to Mexico for burial, and for their parents -- who are undocumented immigrants -- to find a way to accompany them.

Angelo Solera, an advocate for the Latino community, said the Mexican Embassy is arranging to send the bodies to Tenenexpan, Mexico, and is working with the city to coordinate the parents' travel to their hometown while allowing them to come back to the United States.

"They don't want to leave the country with the kids and then come back and not get in," Solera said.

The family also is trying to put together arrangements for a funeral this week at the Wylie Funeral Home in Baltimore, Solera said. A vigil is scheduled for 7 p.m. tomorrow at the apartment complex.

Motive unknown

Police are continuing to search for a motive in the May 27 slayings, said Officer Troy Harris, a police spokesman. This weekend, police sources said the killings may have been revenge for an unpaid debt for transportation into the United Sates as undocumented immigrants.

"Our homicide detectives are investigating every possible tip and scenario that comes across their desks," Harris said. "This investigation is far from complete."

The charging documents offered no motive.

Espinoza, the victims' uncle, told police he sat in his car while Canela, the victims' cousin, was inside the apartment for 40 minutes. He said Canela later emerged from a rear window of the ground-floor apartment, according to the documents.

Canela, who police said worked as a butcher at a Baltimore slaughterhouse, told Espinoza he was playing with the children, according to Espinoza's statement.

Police found a knife near the crime scene and a shirt and towel apparently covered with blood at the suspects' home, the documents state.

According to the documents, Ricardo Espinoza, who lived in the apartment with his family and the family of his wife's niece, arrived home and found the slain children. Police earlier had said that the mother was the first person to find the children.

Solera said Alexis' 2-year-old sister also saw the crime scene, and the family is seeking counseling for her.

Family members are confused by the arrests and don't believe that Canela or Policarpio Espinoza were involved in the crime because there was no animosity between the families, Solera said.

Family members gathered some belongings from the Northwest Baltimore apartment yesterday and are staying in a Baltimore hotel at the city's expense, Solera said. He said they don't plan to live in the apartment again.

Family is `crushed'

"The family right now is crushed by the events," he said. "They just don't understand who could have done this."

In Tenenexpan, the small farming village where the mothers of the children grew up, the Quezada family watched television to learn more about when the bodies will arrive for burial.

"The news says they will be here soon," said Luz Maria Quezada, cousin of the slain brother and sister. "We have to trust that."

For now, the Quezadas, who have lived in Tenenexpan for generations, are preparing three small graves in the town cemetery.

"That's all we can do," Luz Quezada said.

Ricardo and Lucero, the slain brother and sister, were born in Tenenexpan. Their cousin, Alexis, 10, was born in Mexico City.

Their mothers, Noemi Quezada, 47, and Andrea Espejo Quezada, 34, also were born in the village. Noemi Quezada is Andrea Quezada's aunt.

Sun staff writers Allison Klein and Jonathan D. Rockoff contributed to this article.

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