- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 19, 2006

BALTIMORE — A detective in the retrial of two illegal aliens accused of brutally killing three young relatives said yesterday that evidence was stolen from the car of one of the defendants.

Detective Juan Diaz of the Baltimore Police Department told jurors that the evidence was in a white bag in the trunk of defendant Policarpio Espinoza Perez’s blue Pontiac, which was in police custody at an impound lot.

Detective Diaz said that construction-site gloves, fingerprints and other pieces of evidence were in the car during an initial search, but that the trunk was “clean” when he searched it again under a new warrant.

Mr. Perez and his nephew Adan Canela, 19, face life imprisonment if found guilty in the May 27, 2004, strangling, beating and near-beheading deaths of Ricardo Solis Quezada, 9; his sister Lucero Solis Quezada, 8; and their male cousin Alexis Espejo Quezada, 10.

Mr. Perez and Mr. Canela are the children’s uncle and cousin, respectively.

Their first trial ended last year in a hung jury after five weeks of testimony.

The retrial is in its third week, and attorneys expect it to last at least two more.

Defense attorneys said yesterday that the bag likely contained “vital” evidence that would have helped prove their clients were innocent.

“I think the evidence would have been crucial to our case, which is why I think it was stolen,” said James Rhodes, Mr. Canela’s lead attorney.

Jurors also received copies of the transcript of Mr. Perez’s taped statement to police made in the early hours of May 28, 2004.

On the tape, Mr. Perez places himself at the apartment where his brother lived, and where his nephews and niece were killed at about 4:20 p.m., close to the last time the children were seen alive.

Mr. Perez said he went for a walk because his brother was not home and returned hours later upon receiving a call that something bad had happened at the apartment. He said he did not tell anyone that he had visited his brother’s apartment earlier that day.

“Why not?” detectives asked, according to the transcript.

“Out of fear,” Mr. Perez replied.

“Of what” they asked.

“I don’t know,” Mr. Perez said. “Of my brother’s reaction.”

Mr. Perez also said on the tape that he and Mr. Canela had visited the apartment two days before the killings because his sister-in-law had a miscarriage.

The tape contradicts testimony by Mimi Quezada, who changed her story several times but said in the end that the men visited her the day before the killings.

A former co-worker of Mr. Perez also took the stand yesterday, confirming that the defendant worked with concrete construction materials in May 2004.

New evidence presented by prosecutors during this trial includes a mixture of gypsum and kaolin — a blue, grainy substance commonly used in construction — that was found on a dress, shorts, shirt and belt worn by the victims.

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