- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 7, 2004

BALTIMORE — Two suspects charged with the gruesome murders of three Mexican children pleaded not guilty yesterday to beheading one of their young relatives and nearly decapitating the other children.

Judge John Glynn set a Dec. 13 trial for Policarpio Espinoza Perez, 22, and Adan Espinoza Canela, 17, who asked for a jury trial.

They are charged with first-degree murder and other charges in the killings of Ricardo Solis Quezada Jr. and his sister, Lucero Solis Quezada, both 9, and their 10-year-old male cousin, Alexis Espejo Quezada. They were found dead in their apartment after returning home from school the afternoon of May 27.

The men remain in custody without bail. Mr. Perez’s last name was initially identified as Espinoza, but court officials corrected it at the hearing.

Police have yet to disclose a motive for the crimes, and attorneys representing the two men seized on that after an arraignment in Baltimore yesterday.

Timothy Dixon, who is representing Mr. Perez, said the victims’ families, who are related to the suspects, “are in complete support of them.”

“These gentlemen have gotten along well with their family members for their entire lives,” Mr. Dixon said. “I just don’t understand why [it] went this far.”

Prosecutor Sharon Holback declined to discuss motive after the hearing.

The victims’ relatives, illegal immigrants who don’t speak English, had an interpreter repeated the indictment in Spanish as it was read in the court room. They cried and hugged as the crimes were read aloud.

In July, the Baltimore Sun, citing anonymous sources, reported that a bloody glove discovered in a car trunk links Mr. Perez to the killings. Tests on it revealed his blood and the blood of one of the children, the newspaper reported. Mr. Perez was the children’s uncle.

James Rhodes, who represents Mr. Canela, maintained that both men are not guilty and downplayed the news leak.

“Constant requests have gone out to the state to produce the evidence that I’ve heard about,” Mr. Rhodes said. “I’ve not seen one piece of evidence yet. I’m still waiting for it.”

The two suspects, who are in the country illegally from Mexico, were arrested May 28, the day after the killings.

Both men face three counts each of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and use of a deadly weapon. They could get life in prison.

Their attorneys said both men were upset and confused.

“My client just can’t imagine it,” Mr. Dixon said. “He can’t imagine he’d be charged with murdering his own relatives.”

The family is from Tenenexpan, a small town in the Mexican state of Veracruz. The children, who were born in Mexico, were buried there in June.

Earlier that month, U.S. immigration officials decided to allow the Mexican parents of the children to stay in the country for a year after burying the children in Mexico. Significant public benefit paroles were granted to them, so they could be in the country during the prosecution of the suspects.

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