BALTIMORE — A veteran homicide detective, who became choked up when testifying yesterday about the three Mexican children butchered and killed in their apartment last year, said the father of two of the victims appeared stoic when questioned by police the day of the killings.
“He didn’t show any outward signs of emotion,” Baltimore Detective Sgt. Darryl Massey said.
Sgt. Massey had to pause to collect himself when he recalled seeing the bodies of Lucero Solis Quezada, 8, her brother Ricardo Solis Quezada Jr., 9, and their 10-year-old cousin Alexis Espejo Quezada. The children were beaten with an aluminum baseball bat and nearly decapitated with a boning knife in their Northwest Baltimore apartment in May 2004.
When Sgt. Massey became choked up, a defense attorney seated near the witness stand offered him a cup of water. “That won’t help me,” Sgt. Massey said.
He said he had never seen a crime scene like it. “I actually prayed,” he said.
The children’s cousin Adan Canela, 18, and their uncle Policarpio Espinoza Perez, 23, are on trial on first-degree murder charges in Baltimore Circuit Court. They face life in prison if convicted.
The defendants, the victims and their immediate families were illegal aliens from Mexico. Family members have received special visas for the trial, which could last a month.
The victims’ families have defended their kin accused of the killings, and police have testified that family members had been “reluctant” to cooperate with investigators.
None of the family members speak English, which apparently hampered the homicide investigation because suspects and witnesses had to be questioned through an interpreter. The language barrier has slowed the trial as well when family members had to testify through court interpreters.
Sgt. Massey said that when family members were brought to police headquarters for questioning the day of the killings, some of the women were crying but not Ricardo Espinoza Perez, the father of Lucero and Ricardo Jr.
Ricardo Espinoza Perez is also the brother of Policarpio Espinoza Perez and the uncle of Mr. Canela.
Sgt. Massey also said Victor Espinoza Perez, Ricardo and Policarpio’s older brother, appeared to be the leader of the family when they arrived at police headquarters that day.
Victor Espinoza Perez has been a central figure in the trial.
James L. Rhodes, lead attorney for Mr. Canela, suggested in his opening statement Friday that the culprit is his client’s father, Victor Espinoza Perez, to whom relatives owed at least $2,500 for the illegal entry into the United States.
The theory was one of several alternative explanations for the crime presented by the defense attorneys.
Detective Irvin Bradley, the lead investigator in the case, testified Tuesday that the family paid human traffickers to smuggle them into the country. “Something was paid, but to whom and how much, I don’t know,” he said.
Prosecutors have not offered a motive in the slayings but say DNA evidence, including the children’s blood found on the defendants’ pants and shoes, will prove that they are the “cold-blooded killers.”
Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Thomas Ward yesterday excused the only white member of the panel of jurors. He said the alternate juror, a 33-year-old woman, was constantly requesting drinking water and complaining about her health.
“My conclusion was that her attitude was bad about serving in the jury,” Judge Thomas said.
The jury consists of eight black women and four black men. There are now five black women serving as alternate jurors.