Pair accused of near-beheading of three children reject deal

Men turn down plea deal in which would've received life sentences with all but 40 years suspended

November 16, 2012|By Ian Duncan, The Baltimore Sun

Two men accused of nearly beheading three children in a horrific attack in Northwest Baltimore over eight years ago have rejected a plea deal from prosecutors, a defense attorney for one of them said.

Brian Murphy, who is representing Adan Canela, 25, said his client and co-defendant Policarpio Espinoza Perez, 30, turned down a deal at a court hearing Thursday. Had they accepted, Canela and Perez would have received life sentences with all but 40 years suspended, Murphy said.

"The state made it pretty clear: Take it today or it's withdrawn," Murphy said. "They're OK with that; they rejected it."

The case now looks set to go to a third trial, which is scheduled to start March 11. The first resulted in a hung jury, and a conviction and life sentences for the men in a second were overturned on appeal.

An attorney for Perez, who is being represented by the office of the public defender, could not be reached for comment.

Securing another conviction could be a difficult task for prosecutors. In the years since the killings, witnesses in the case have died or are unavailable to testify, leaving prosecutors trying to introduce their testimony from old trials, according to Murphy. He said there will be a battle over that issue at a hearing in January.

Canela and Perez, illegal immigrants from Mexico, are accused of slashing the throats of three young relatives: Lucero Espinoza, 8; her brother, Ricardo Espinoza, 9; and Alexis Espejo Quezada, 10, a cousin. The brutality of the killings shocked Baltimore.

Mark Cheshire, a spokesman for the Baltimore state's attorney's office, which is prosecuting the case, declined to comment on the case. When the office announced that it would seek a new trial last year, it noted that the appeals court ruling focused on errors by the judge, not problems with the evidence.

But several witnesses were deported to Mexico, and a lead detective in the case has died. Victor Espinoza Perez — head of the extended family at the center of the killings — was shot to death in Mexico. His wife, Guadalupe Hernandez, was charged in that country with plotting his murder, likely rendering her unavailable to testify.

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