- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 11, 2006

BALTIMORE — Prosecutors in the retrial of two illegal aliens accused of killing three young relatives yesterday questioned the victims’ aunt about phone calls she made to one of the defendants on the day of the killings.

Guadalupe Juarez Hernandez testified she called Policarpio Espinoza Perez 11 times in the hours after police found the partially decapitated bodies of Ricardo Solis Quezada Jr., 9; his sister, Lucero Solis Quezada, 8; and their male cousin, Alexis Espejo Quezada, 10. She said she called at the request of the siblings’ father, Ricardo Solis Quezada Sr.

Mr. Perez, 24, and Adan Canela, 19, are accused of strangling, beating and nearly beheading the children in their Northwest Baltimore apartment May 27, 2004. Mr. Perez is the victims’ uncle, Mr. Canela their cousin.

All of the family members are illegal aliens from Mexico.

Miss Juarez — Mr. Perez’s sister-in-law and Mr. Canela’s stepmother — said she could not remember much about the phone calls, some of which were placed within seconds of one another. She said she kept calling because Mr. Perez did not answer the phone or call her back.

“I called him because Ricardo (Sr.) asked me to,” she said.

Prosecutors do not have a motive in the killings and have said that family members know more about the slayings than they have divulged.

Yesterday, prosecutors said Miss Juarez’s repeated calls to Mr. Perez illustrates their point. They asked Miss Juarez why she did not call Mr. Canela on the day of the slayings.

Phone records show Miss Juarez called Mr. Perez 21 times two days before the slayings. That day, the siblings’ mother had a miscarriage, and a neighbor said she saw the defendants sneaking around the apartment complex in the evening.

Defense attorneys yesterday accused prosecutors of “manipulating” Miss Juarez’s phone records to “make something out of nothing.”

Nicholas Panteleakis, Mr. Perez’s attorney, said Miss Juarez placed the calls in the presence of police officers who gathered the family into a small building at the crime scene.

Each call to Mr. Perez lasted about 10 to 40 seconds, he said.

Mr. Panteleakis said the 11 phone calls equaled less than four minutes of call time, while the 21 calls made two days before totaled less than seven minutes — not enough time to help plan the slayings.

The seconds-long calls are more likely attributed to voicemail pickups, the defense attorney said.

Prosecutors are “trying to say there’s a gap in phone calls that shows,” something suspicious was the focus of the calls, Mr. Panteleakis said. But “you can’t even say there’s a conversation, you can just say that a call was made. … It’s inconclusive.”

The retrial will resume today. The first trial ended in a hung jury last August.

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