Mother is the first to testify in murder trial

CRIME WATCH

July 04, 2006

The mother of one of the three elementary school-age children killed in a brutal attack two years ago testified yesterday that one of the defendants charged in the murder had expressed a romantic interest in her months before.

Maria Andrea Espejo Quezada's nearly five-hour testimony was similar to the testimony she gave last year, when the trial for Policarpio Espinoza, 24, and Adan Canela, 19 - both charged with first-degree murder - ended in a mistrial.

Quezada, the first witness to testify, said Canela told her that he had never had a girlfriend and that he "wanted to have his way with me," she said. However, Quezada said she never felt threatened by Canela.

In the first trial last year, she testified that Canela and his father, Victor Espinoza Perez, made unwanted advances at her on separate occasions.

Assistant State's Attorney Sharon R. Holback said she could not offer a definitive motive for the killings during her opening statement Friday but suggested one was not necessary for a conviction because of the extensive DNA and other physical evidence. Holback focused much of her questioning of Quezada on trying to define the relationship she had with Canela and Perez - leaving open the possibility of rejection or jealousy as a motive.

"I'm not saying Adan threatened me," Quezada said. "He just made a proposal to me."

The three children - an 8-year-old girl, her 9-year-old brother and their 10-year-old cousin, who was the son of Quezada - were strangled and nearly decapitated shortly after coming home from school in May 2004 in a Northwest Baltimore apartment.

Canela is the cousin of the brother and sister.

The trial is expected to last several weeks.

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