- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 20, 2005

BALTIMORE — A Mexican immigrant charged with killing three young children didn’t tell family members he had driven to the victims’ apartment just before the slayings because he was afraid of how a relative would react, according to a statement he gave police.

Jurors in the murder trial of Policarpio Espinoza Perez, 23, and Adan Canela, 18, got a transcript yesterday of the statement Mr. Perez gave to police at 1:29 a.m. the morning after the bodies were found.

Mr. Perez told police he drove to the children’s apartment about 4:20 p.m. on May 27, 2004. That’s about the time police think the children’s throats were cut within inches of decapitation. In the statement, Mr. Perez said he never left the car.

Detective Juan Diaz, who acted as a translator during the interview at police headquarters, read the transcript to jurors as they followed along with their own copies. Mr. Perez told police he found out about the slayings in a phone call from a family member, who said “something very sad just happened.”

Mr. Perez and Mr. Canela went to meet family members at the apartment after the bodies were found. While giving his statement, Mr. Perez was asked why he didn’t tell family members he had been to the apartment. Mr. Perez said he refrained “out of fear.”

Asked by Sgt. Darryl Massey what he was afraid of, Mr. Perez replied: “I do not know. My brother’s reaction.”

Mr. Perez is the brother of the father of two of the victims, as well as the brother of the head of the family, Victor Espinoza Perez. Policarpio Espinoza Perez did not mention the brother he was referring to specifically by name.

However, he was being asked about his presence at his brother’s apartment, suggesting he was talking about Ricardo Espinoza Perez, the father of two of the slain children.

Policarpio Espinoza Perez also told Sgt. Massey he had been to the children’s apartment two days before the crime to visit his sister-in-law. A witness who lived at the children’s apartment building has testified that she saw Mr. Perez and Mr. Canela hanging around behind the children’s apartment at night.

But when Sgt. Massey asked whether he had been behind the apartment, Mr. Perez said he hadn’t.

Mr. Perez and Mr. Canela are charged with killing 9-year-old Ricardo Jr., 8-year-old Lucero and their cousin, 10-year-old Alexis. Both men are related to the children.

Mr. Perez’s statement was redacted to omit his references to Mr. Canela because Mr. Canela has a right to confront his accuser in court. Mr. Perez is not expected to take the stand in their joint trial.

In his unedited statement, Mr. Perez told Sgt. Massey that he drove to the apartment with Mr. Canela. He also said Mr. Canela went inside.

Detective Diaz also testified about an interview with Mr. Canela. He said Mr. Canela told them he didn’t know anything and used a rude expression.

Defense attorney Timothy Dixon focused on the police experience of the 31-year-old Detective Diaz, repeatedly asking him questions about how long he had worked in various roles at the department.

Prosecutor Sharon Holback asked Detective Diaz about 22 gloves found in a vehicle used by Mr. Perez and Mr. Canela. Detective Diaz also testified that the suspects were taken on June 2, 2004, to Mercy Hospital, where hair, blood and saliva samples were taken for DNA testing purposes.

Although Miss Holback didn’t mention gloves in her opening statement, authorities have said before that DNA evidence on gloves would play a role in the case.

Prosecutors have not offered a motive for the killings, although they have suggested the men were co-conspirators with others. The defense contends that others committed the slayings and that the crime was somehow related to illegal-alien trafficking.

The children were born in Mexico City and emigrated to the U.S. with their parents, who are illegal aliens.

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