Fingerprints can't be matched to two men in murder trial

Prosecution says suspects wore gloves during killing of 3 children


News from around the Baltimore region

August 05, 2005|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

No fingerprints matching the two Mexican immigrants charged in last year's slaying of three children in Northwest Baltimore were found at the crime scene, a city police employee testified during the suspects' trial yesterday.

Prosecutors have said they believe the killers were wearing gloves when they cut the throats of an 8-year-old girl, her 9-year-old brother and their 10-year-old male cousin, though police did find what appeared to be bloody fingerprints on the interior sill of a window in the apartment where the children were killed.

But Roy M. Jones, a fingerprint examiner for the Baltimore Police Department, told jurors that there wasn't enough ridge detail to determine whose fingerprints those were.

Policarpio Espinoza, 23, and Adan Canela, 18, are on trial in Baltimore Circuit Court facing three counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy charges in the May 27, 2004, deaths of their young relatives. Espinoza was an uncle, and Canela was a cousin.

The fifth week of testimony begins today, and prosecutors still have several witnesses left to call, including a DNA expert. Attorneys for Espinoza and Canela will then present their cases in a trial that is expected to last several more weeks.

Jones testified that only four suitable prints were found at the crime scene, and those prints, he said, did not match either suspect or any family member whose prints he had on file. Jones said he did not compare them with the children's fingerprints.

Earlier yesterday, a forensic scientist who collected what prosecutors say is some of the most incriminating evidence in the case was intensely cross-examined by defense attorneys.

Salvatore Bianca, a former Baltimore Police Department crime lab employee, used a vacuum that he had invented to suck in debris from the interiors of two work gloves and two pairs of blue jeans.

Assistant State's Attorney Sharon R. Holback said in her opening statements that the jeans are stained with the blood of the children and contain the skin cells of Espinoza and Canela. A detective testified that the gloves are evidence that the defendants committed the crime.

A DNA expert who is expected to be called to the stand within days may be able to explain whose blood, if anyone's, is on the articles of clothing and whose skin cells, if anyone's, are inside.

Canela's attorney, James Rhodes, questioned Bianca yesterday about whether skin cells from other clothing may have rubbed off on the stained jeans.

Bianca replied that it was possible but unlikely. The scientist also said it is not likely that the debris he collected from the interior of the jeans - the inside of the pockets, the zipper area and behind the knees - landed there after circulating in the air of the police laboratory where the examination took place.

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