Relatives' testimony raises questions about killings of 3 children

Prosecution focuses on family members' behavior the day of deaths in 2004

July 19, 2005|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Two more relatives of the Mexican immigrants on trial in the brutal killings of three children took the witness stand yesterday and gave testimony that raised more questions about the behavior of family members the day of the killings.

The sister-in-law of Policarpio Espinoza, the elder defendant, exchanged numerous telephone calls with him all day May 27, 2004, the day the children were killed in their Fallstaff apartment.

Espinoza, 23, and his nephew, Adan Canela, 18, are on trial in Baltimore Circuit Court on three counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy charges in the deaths of 8-year-old Lucero Espinoza, her 9-year-old bother, Ricardo, and their 10-year-old male cousin, Alexis Espejo Quezada.

Five family members

Assistant State's Attorney Sharon R. Holback has called five family members to the stand in an effort to build a timeline for the killings. But her sometimes-aggressive treatment of each relative has hinted that prosecutors might believe the family knows more than it has let on about the killings.

Many relatives - including the mothers of the slain children - have said they believe Canela and Espinoza are innocent.

Phone records have not been entered into evidence, but Holback alluded yesterday to many calls between Espinoza and Guadalupe Juarez Hernandez that began as early as 5:38 a.m. and extended into the evening.

Hernandez is married to Victor Espinoza Perez, who is Canela's father as well as the brother of Espinoza and Ricardo Espinoza Perez, the father of Lucero and Ricardo.

Canela's attorney, James Rhodes, said in his opening statements that Hernandez might have learned that her husband was romantically interested in the mother of one of the children and asked him to "go over and take care of it."

Yesterday, Holback asked Hernandez whether she was "jealous" of Maria Andrea Espejo Quezada, Alexis' mother, and whether anything was "going on" between the two. Hernandez answered "no" to both questions, and said she comforted Quezada at the crime scene.

The prosecutor also established that Hernandez and Espinoza had an extremely close relationship, calling each other as often as five times a day. Espinoza and Canela shared a bedroom in the Baltimore County home of Victor Perez and Guadalupe Hernandez.

`No recuerdo'

Speaking in Spanish, which was translated by a court interpreter, Hernandez answered many of Holback's questions by saying "No recuerdo," which means "I don't remember."

Holback asked Hernandez how many times she had spoken with either of the case's prosecutors before yesterday. The question was left hanging when defense attorneys objected.

Defense attorneys are to cross-examine Hernandez this morning.

Earlier yesterday, the husband of Hernandez's sister testified. Holback asked Quirino Francisco Lazcano Aguilar why he casually returned home for dinner for what she described as "a nice meal" after learning that the children's throats had been slashed.

He said he had been working at a construction site all day.

Same company

Aguilar and Policarpio Espinoza worked for the same construction company, he testified. In November, Aguilar gave police a taped statement in which he described the killings as "an accident" and "an incident." In the statement, he also said he could not remember seeing Espinoza at work on the day of the killings.

But under cross-examination by Nicholas Panteleakis, one of Espinoza's attorneys, the witness said the men were sometimes sent to separate locations.

Aguilar also said he had been offended by the way police treated him during the November interview, saying that one detective called him "a liar" when he did not definitively say whether Espinoza had been at work May 27, 2004.

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