BALTIMORE — The mothers of three children killed and butchered in their apartment last year had “a premonition” that “something was happening” at about the time the slayings took place, one of the women testified yesterday.
“I believe, as mothers, we already had a sense,” said Mimi Quezada, mother of victims Lucero, 8, and Ricardo Jr., 9. “We knew that something was going to happen to us, that something was happening.”
Mrs. Quezada’s children and their 10-year-old cousin, Alexis Espejo Quezada, were beaten with a baseball bat and nearly decapitated with a boning knife in May 2004 after they returned from school to a Northwest Baltimore apartment.
Their cousin, Adan Canela, 18, and their uncle, Policarpio Espinoza Perez, 23, are on trial in Baltimore Circuit Court for the slayings and face life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder. Mr. Perez is also Mr. Canela’s uncle.
Mrs. Quezada said she “felt nervous” and prayed to St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, on her way home the afternoon of the killings. She said Alexis’ mother, Maria Espejo, also felt uneasy and calmed herself by smoking a cigarette.
Mrs. Quezada was called as a prosecution witness but appeared uncooperative when questioned by Assistant State’s Attorney Sharon Holback.
Mrs. Holback repeatedly asked Mrs. Quezada to identify a telephone number on the bill of the cell phone used by her and her husband that showed Mr. Perez was the first person the parents called within minutes of finding the slain children.
Mrs. Quezada repeatedly said she did not recognize the phone number of Mr. Perez, who is her brother-in-law.
“Truly, I don’t know those numbers,” Mrs. Quezada, who speaks only Spanish, said through a court interpreter. “Why would I be lying to you?”
The victims’ families have steadfastly defended the family members accused in the killings.
The defendants, the victims and their immediate families were illegal aliens from Mexico at the time of the killings. Family members have since received special visas for the duration of the trial, which could last a month.
Baltimore Police Detective Irvin Bradley, the lead homicide investigator in the case, testified that the family members were “reluctant” to provide information the day of the killings.
He said the family members would look at the ground and glance toward Victor Espinoza Perez, the father of Mr. Canela and brother of Mr. Perez.
Detective Bradley said the defendants arrived at the murder scene that day freshly showered, wearing black dress clothes, while the other family members wore dirty work clothes.
“The rest of the family … were shaken, upset,” Detective Bradley said. “The defendants had blank stares, like nothing was wrong.”
James L. Rhodes, an attorney for Mr. Canela, continued to advance his theory that the real culprit was Victor Espinoza Perez, who had the children killed to “send a message” to relatives who owed him at least $2,500 for smuggling them into the country.
Detective Bradley will resume his testimony today.
In cross examination, Mr. Rhodes prodded Mrs. Quezada as to when Victor Espinoza Perez left work the day of the killings.
The family members, except for the defendants, worked together operating lunch trucks at construction sites.
“He had to go somewhere so he hurried and left early,” Mrs. Quezada said.
The defense teams have offered several alternative suspects and motives for the crimes, including a group of neighborhood children who apparently wrote death threats on an alley wall behind the victims’ apartment and a man named Carlos who was picked up by police the night of the killings but let go.
Prosecutors have not presented a motive, but they say blood and DNA evidence will prove that the defendants killed the children.