- The Washington Times - Monday, May 31, 2004

BALTIMORE — As prosecutors begin presenting their case today against two male relatives accused in the gruesome killing of three children, police continue to search for a motive.

“Everybody’s speculating, everybody’s assuming, but there is no motive at this time,” Irv Bradley, the Baltimore police detective in charge of the investigation, said yesterday. “We still have a lot of unanswered questions.”

He said police are exploring every lead as they try to determine why the victims — Ricardo Espinoza and his sister, Lucero Quezada, both 9; and their 10-year-old male cousin, Alexis Quezada — were killed on Thursday in the apartment where they lived. One child had been beheaded, and the others were nearly decapitated.

“I was in that place, and I seen what happened to those kids,” Mr. Bradley said. “We’re trying to work for them, to find out everything that we can, for their family and for those little kids.”

A bail review was set for this afternoon for Adan Espinoza Canela, 17, and Policarpio Espinoza, 22. They were charged with three counts of first-degree murder each and were being held without bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 28.

Joe Sviatko, a spokesman for the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office, said yesterday that attorneys were likely to be assigned to the suspects at the bail review.

Mr. Bradley said Mr. Canela was a butcher at a Baltimore slaughterhouse, and Mr. Espinoza worked for the family’s food business, which sold Mexican food at construction sites.

According to the charging documents, Mr. Espinoza, who was described as the brother of the father of two of the slain children, told police that Mr. Canela, his cousin, had been in the apartment with the children for about 40 minutes. When Mr. Espinoza later asked Mr. Canela what he had been doing for so long, Mr. Canela said he had been “playing with the children.”

Officials found a butcher knife near the crime scene and a bloodstained towel and shirt at the home of the two suspects, according to the charging documents.

“Without a doubt, we’ve got the right guys,” Detective Bradley said. “Some of the things we got during the conversations with these guys — you had to have been there to have known what they knew.”

Meanwhile, family and community members are struggling to come to terms with the killings.

The Rev. James Gilmour, a priest at St. Michael’s, a Baltimore Catholic church with a large Hispanic community, said yesterday that an interfaith prayer vigil has been scheduled for tomorrow evening at the apartment complex where the children were killed.

“The Hispanic community is very much in solidarity in mourning the tremendous tragedy that has happened here,” Father Gilmour said. “We’re praying for the children, the innocent victims, and for the parents, that they find hope and peace even in the midst of such a terrible thing.”

The family is originally from Tenenexpan, a small town in the Mexican state of Veracruz known for mango trees.

Venancio Espejo, the uncle of victim Alexis Quezada, said Sunday that the boy’s mother — Maria Andrea Espejo — had told him in a telephone call from Baltimore that she doesn’t think that Mr. Espinoza had committed the crime, despite what police described as evidence linking him to the slayings.

Mr. Espejo said his sister is desperate to return to Mexico, bury her child and console their mother.

The Mexican government’s Foreign Relations Department said the children’s parents — Ricardo Espinoza, Mimi Quezada and Miss Espejo — were undocumented immigrants. Messages left Monday with officials at the Mexican Embassy in the District and the U.S. Bureau Immigration and Customs Enforcement were not returned.

• AP writer Regina Martinez in Tenenexpan, Mexico, contributed to this report.

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