Scientist tells murder-case jury about how he gathered evidence

Two men are on trial, accused of slashing throats of 3 children

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August 02, 2005|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

In testimony that seemed ripped from a script of the television show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, a forensic scientist told jurors yesterday how he collected tiny amounts of evidence that is being used in the trial of two men accused of slashing the throats of three young relatives.

Salvatore Bianca, who worked for the Baltimore Police Department for three decades until he retired in January, testified about 11 spots of suspected blood on two left-handed work gloves found in a car that was used by the defendants. Bianca said he also vacuumed out debris from the inside of the gloves in an effort to determine who had worn them.

Policarpio Espinoza, 23, and his nephew, Adan Canela, 18, are charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Lucero Espinoza, 8, her brother, Ricardo, 9, and their male cousin, Alexis Espejo Quezada, 10. The children's bodies were found May 27, 2004, in the family's apartment in Northwest Baltimore. Espinoza is an uncle of the children, and Canela is a cousin.

Jurors have not heard the results of the analysis of the gloves, but prosecutors have said they contain the blood of the children and can be connected to the defendants. Prosecutors also have shown jurors two pairs of blue jeans that they say were worn by Espinoza and Canela. Both pairs have small dark brown stains that could be blood.

Bianca also testified that he had found "one tiny red speck" of what appeared to be blood on the right shoe of a pair of black loafers. Prosecutors have said the shoes were worn by Espinoza when he was arrested in the early-morning hours the day after the crime. The droplet on the shoe, prosecutors have said, is Lucero's blood.

Cross-examination earlier in the day of two other Baltimore crime lab technicians raised questions about evidence collection. Defense attorneys have been attempting to build a case that shoddy police work led to the arrests of the wrong men.

Technician Ted Turner testified that he should have taken photographs of two gloves with suspected blood on them, which he said were found on the floor of the car, a Pontiac Grand Am, that Espinoza and Canela used.

It was an "oversight" on his part not to take photos of the gloves because technicians normally try to photograph all pieces of potential evidence, said Turner, a technician for more than 20 years.

Turner said he did take photographs of the other piece of key evidence recovered from the car - a pair of dark blue jeans found in a white plastic bag in the trunk. But those photos are missing. Turner said he is "not sure what happened" to them. Prosecutors have said those pants contain blood from the children and skin cells from Canela.

Another problem in that initial search of the car, conducted the day after the slayings, was Turner's failure to collect the bag that he said held the jeans. Under cross-examination by Adam Sean Cohen, one of Canela's attorneys, Turner said that the bag could have been a "valuable source of information."

He said he examined the bag, but "not as thoroughly as I wish I would have."

Detectives later realized the bag could be evidence in the case, and they got a warrant in October to retrieve it from the car. The car had since been towed from police headquarters to a city lot on Pulaski Highway.

In that subsequent search, however, the bag could not be found, Turner said. He said it seemed as though there was less material in the car trunk than when he had done his search. Police have not explained what happened to the car.

Morning testimony also included two other technicians who collected evidence at the scene of the crime. One technician said he was "disturbed" that several high-ranking police officials were allowed to walk through the apartment before evidence was collected.

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