- The Washington Times - Monday, August 8, 2005

BALTIMORE — Prosecutors yesterday presented DNA evidence linking two men to the slayings of three young relatives who were beaten with a baseball bat and nearly beheaded last year.

The evidence, which is considered the linchpin of the state’s case against Policarpio Espinoza Perez, 23, and Adan Canela, 18, included traces of the defendants’ DNA and the children’s blood on two pairs of jeans and two gloves.

An apparent bloodstain from one of the children also was found on Mr. Perez’s shoe, said Lynnett Redhead, a DNA analyst for the Baltimore Police Department.

“The conclusion I drew was that the DNA obtained … from the shoe is consistent with the victim Lucero Quezada,” Miss Redhead testified in Baltimore Circuit Court.

She said the odds of finding a person other than Lucero with DNA matching the stain on the shoe is one in 11 quadrillion — an 11 followed by 15 zeros — within the country’s Southeast Hispanic population.

Mr. Perez and Mr. Canela face life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder in the slayings of 8-year-old Lucero, her 9-year-old brother, Ricardo Solis Quezada Jr., and their 10-year-old cousin, Alexis Espejo Quezada.

The children were killed in their Northwest Baltimore apartment on May 27, 2004.

Mr. Canela is the cousin of the victims. Mr. Perez is the uncle of the victims and Mr. Canela.

The defendants, the victims and their immediate families are illegal aliens from Mexico.

Family members have received special visas for the trial, which is in its fifth week and could last into next month.

Yesterday, Miss Redhead testified that:

A bloodstained work glove found in Mr. Perez’s car had traces of DNA consistent with the three victims and Mr. Perez.

Another bloodstained work glove from the car had DNA matching the victims as well as Mr. Perez and a partial DNA match for Mr. Canela.

A pair of bloodstained jeans found in the car’s trunk had DNA consistent with the victims and Mr. Canela.

Miss Redhead said the odds of someone else’s blood DNAmatching Mr. Canela’s is one in 32,700.

Another pair of bloodstained blue jeans found in the bedroom shared by the defendants had DNA consistent with Lucero’s blood and DNA matching that of Mr. Perez.

The odds of someone else in the Southeast Hispanic population matching the DNA consistent with Mr. Perez’s is one in 229 billion, Miss Redhead said.

In cross-examination, Nicholas Panteleakis, an attorney for Mr. Perez, elicited testimony from Miss Redhead that she looked for DNA matches only with the defendants and the victims.

He then showed that the DNA profiles for Mimi Quezada and Ricardo Espinoza Perez Sr., the parents of Lucero and Ricardo Jr., were consistent or made partial matches with much of the evidence.

“Actually, Ricardo Sr. had a higher match than Policarpio [on the glove]?” Mr. Panteleakis said.

“Yes,” Miss Redhead said.

She said a consensus was reached among herself, her laboratory supervisor and a senior homicide detective to focus the DNA analysis on the defendants and the victims.

The police lab had DNA samples from the parents of the victims but did not compare them with the evidence.

Mr. Panteleakis also drew attention to DNA findings that were not consistent with the DNA of the defendants, the victims or the parents.

He asked whether some of the unknown DNA could have come from police improperly handling the evidence.

“I don’t know how it got there,” Miss Redhead said.

The victims’ families have defended their kin, and police have testified that family members had been “reluctant” to cooperate with investigators.

The family members say they do not speak English, but prosecutors have presented witnesses who testified that some family members regularly communicated in English without difficulty.

Prosecutors have not offered a motive in the slayings.

The defense has offered several alternative explanations for the crime, including that Mr. Canela’s father, Victor Espinoza Perez, smuggled the family into the country and later had the children killed to “send a message” when he wasn’t paid for the illegal trip.

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