Defendants in killings of 3 children gave contradictory details, state says

April 27, 2005|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Two men accused of slashing the throats of three young relatives last year gave contradictory statements to police about their whereabouts the day of the killings, city prosecutors said yesterday.

The revelation came during a daylong pretrial hearing, in which prosecutors defeated several efforts by defense attorneys to exclude evidence and statements.

A Circuit Court judge will allow prosecutors to present evidence of the seemingly contradictory statements the defendants made to police May 27, shortly after the bodies of Ricardo Solis Quezada Jr. and Lucero Solis Quezada, both 9, and their cousin, Alexis Espejo Quezada, 10, were found in a bloody Northwest Baltimore apartment.

During brief police interviews of all relatives at the crime scene, Policarpio Espinoza, the uncle of the slain children, apparently told detectives that he had been working all day and then had gone to Fells Point with his nephew, Adan Canela.

But when Canela was interviewed, he told the detectives that he and "Uncle Policarpio" had spent the day at home watching television before heading to Fells Point, according to testimony presented yesterday.

A trial is scheduled to begin in June, and when it does, jurors also might hear evidence from a neighbor in the Fallstaff apartment complex who said that Canela, now 18, looks like the young man she saw outside the children's home the day before the killings.

Judge David B. Mitchell ruled admissible a photo array in which the woman identified Canela.

Defense arguments

Defense attorneys for the pair had argued that their statements at the crime scene should be thrown out because police had not advised them of their rights to remain silent and to consult with an attorney.

Prosecutors contended -- and the judge agreed -- that police did not need to advise them of their Miranda rights because they had not been arrested at that point.

"This is not a custodial interrogation, in the court's opinion, by the farthest stretch of the imagination," said Mitchell, a retired judge who is presiding over lkthe case.

Timothy M. Dixon, one of Espinoza's attorneys, said he didn't consider yesterday's losses too damaging.

`Fighting every inch'

He said that none of the evidence so far incriminates his client in any way, but that he and Canela's attorneys are "fighting every inch of the way."

"Police should not be allowed to do what they've done in this case," he said after the hearing.

Dixon and Adam Sean Cohen, one of Canela's attorneys, called the photo arrays suggestive, saying that Canela and Espinoza were the only ones pictured who were wearing prison jumpsuits.

Cohen also pointed out during the hearing that the neighbor made her identification of Canela in September, more than 100 days after the crime.

He said police used the same mug shot-style photograph in that array that the television and print media had been reproducing for months.

"That photograph is an icon of this incident," he said.

But Mitchell determined that police had used improperly suggestive techniques to elicit the neighbor's identification.

Friday challenge

On Friday, the defense attorneys will fight to exclude a potentially more damaging statement that Espinoza, now 23, allegedly made while being questioned that night at police headquarters.

Espinoza reportedly told police that he sat in his car while the younger man was inside the children's apartment for 40 minutes.

According to charging documents, Espinoza said he asked Canela why he had been in the apartment so long, and Canela, the victims' cousin, replied that he had been "playing with the children."

Espinoza said he saw a shirtless Canela emerge from a rear window of the ground-floor apartment and return to the car, according to the documents.

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