BALTIMORE — One of the illegal aliens accused of butchering their three young relatives conveyed an “arrogance” and “eerie coldness” when interviewed by police after the killings, a city homicide investigator testified yesterday.
“It was like he didn’t have a soul,” Baltimore Detective Sgt. Darryl Massey said of Adan Canela, 18.
By contrast, co-defendant Policarpio Espinoza Perez, 23, sometimes became choked up and at times had tears well up in his eyes during his interview, the detective said.
Mr. Canela and Mr. Perez are on trial on first-degree murder charges in Baltimore Circuit Court.
They face life in prison if convicted in the slayings 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.
Mr. Canela is the children’s cousin. Mr. Perez is the uncle of the victims and of 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 could last into mid-August.
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. The family members say they do not 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, a supervisor of the homicide unit and a certified specialist of interrogation techniques, conducted the interviews of Mr. Canela and Mr. Perez at police headquarters the day of the killings. He said he was disturbed by Mr. Canela’s defiant attitude given the horrific crime they were discussing.
“I saw a coldness, a coldness from a young man,” Sgt. Massey said. “Three children are killed and [Mr. Canela is] laying back in a chair?”
The detective demonstrated Mr. Canela’s body language for the jury, leaning back to raise the chair’s front legs off the floor and clasping his hands behind his head. Sgt. Massey also demonstrated how Mr. Canela slouched sideways in the chair and tilted his head severely to the side.
However, he said Mr. Canela was at times respectful during the nearly two-hour interview.
Sgt. Massey said Mr. Perez, who was interviewed separately from Mr. Canela, appeared “somewhat nervous” at times but was cooperative.
The pair were arrested after Mr. Perez told investigators that he and Mr. Canela were at the apartment complex at about 4:20 p.m., the approximate time of the killings.
Mr. Perez reportedly told investigators he waited in the car while Mr. Canela went inside the apartment. Mr. Canela returned about 40 minutes later and said he had been “playing with the children,” according to Mr. Perez’s statement.
The jury will not hear that part of the statement, however, because the men are being tried together and by law the state cannot use one defendant’s testimony against the other.
Yesterday, Baltimore Circuit Judge Thomas Ward and the attorneys in the case redacted a transcript of Mr. Perez’s taped interview to remove any reference to Mr. Canela. While the most damaging passages were removed, the statement still will place Mr. Perez at the apartment complex at about the time of the killings.
The redacted transcript could be presented to the jury today.
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.”