Detective unsure how many people had role in killings

Veteran officer tells court he prayed after seeing three dead children

2 relatives of victims accused

July 14, 2005|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore homicide detective testified yesterday that he does not know how many people were involved in the slashing deaths of three Mexican children - an answer that appears to differ from what another detective has said during the trial of the two men accused of the killings.

When Sgt. Darryl Massey was asked by a prosecutor whether he knew how many people might have participated, directly or indirectly, in the crime, he replied, "No."

Massey's testimony came hours after Detective Irvin C. Bradley said on the witness stand that he knew of no one except the two defendants who had participated in the killings.

Policarpio Espinoza, 23, and his nephew, Adan Canela, 18, are on trial facing three counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy charges in the May 27, 2004, deaths of an 8-year-old girl, her 9-year-old brother and their 10-year-old male cousin.

The children, who attended Cross Country Elementary School, were all nearly decapitated in their Fallstaff apartment.

Prosecutors have not laid out a motive for the killings, while defense attorneys say that police arrested the wrong men in their haste to solve the crime.

The two homicide detectives testified all day yesterday. Bradley corrected testimony that he gave Tuesday by saying that investigators had spoken with Tilo Noriega - a man he had said Tuesday he wanted to interview but could not find.

`I actually prayed'

Soon after he took the stand, Massey became choked up when recalling the crime scene. When asked by a prosecutor what he did after seeing the children's bodies, Massey, a 26-year veteran who has investigated hundreds of killings, replied, "I actually prayed."

Massey, who said he was pulled into the investigation because of his interrogation skills, conducted interviews with Canela and Espinoza at police headquarters in the early morning hours the day after the killings. A Spanish-speaking police officer assisted him.

Massey said he also interviewed a man named Mauricio Murrietta, whom the children's family had pointed to as the possible killer, and quickly ruled him out as a suspect. He did not discuss what Murrietta told him, but he replied "not at all" to a prosecutor's question about whether he had second thoughts about that decision.

Murrietta has been described in court as someone who once lived with the family at the Fallstaff apartment and had a romantic relationship with someone in the family.

Assistant State's Attorney Sharon R. Holback began laying the foundation yesterday for Massey to discuss what he learned from Canela and Espinoza. He will continue to testify this morning.

`Coldest' suspect

During a pretrial motions hearing in April, Massey described Canela as "the coldest person" he had ever interviewed. Canela did not agree to give a taped statement, Massey said in that hearing, but the young man leaned back in his chair in an "arrogant and aggressive manner" when told that Espinoza had given one.

In Espinoza's statement to police, he said that he and Canela drove to the apartment the afternoon of the killings and that he waited in his car while Canela was inside "playing with the children." He also said he saw Canela emerge shirtless from a rear window after about 40 minutes inside.

However, jurors will not hear much, if any, of Espinoza's statement.

Prosecutors say their evidence includes two pairs of bloodstained blue jeans that connect Espinoza and Canela, through DNA, to the children's slayings. So far prosecutors have called half a dozen witnesses in a case that the lawyers anticipate continuing through early next month.

Alternate dismissed

In another development yesterday, Circuit Judge Thomas Ward dismissed one of six alternate jurors. He gave no explanation. The juror, Lisa Hayes, a 33-year-old Federal Hill resident, broke courtroom decorum by standing for about an hour near a water cooler during testimony Tuesday and arrived late yesterday.

"Maybe they thought I was antsy and restless," Hayes said in an interview as she left the courthouse.

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