- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 5, 2006

BALTIMORE — The second day in the retrial of two illegal aliens turned emotional as one of the defendants accused of nearly beheading three young relatives wept loudly yesterday when photographs of the deceased victims were shown to jurors.

Adan Canela, 19, was comforted by defense attorneys as he reacted to a photograph of the bloodied body of Alexis Espejo Quezada, 10, that lay on the floor of his Northwest Baltimore apartment on May 27, 2004.

Mr. Canela and his uncle Policarpio Espinoza Perez, 24, who are illegal aliens from Mexico, are accused of strangling, beating and nearly decapitating Alexis and his cousins Ricardo Solis Quezada, 9, and Ricardo’s sister, Lucero Solis Quezada, 8.

Several jurors also appeared visibly shaken. Photographs of the children lying on the floor of their respective bedrooms in the apartment they shared, their bloodied bodies tangled in bedsheets and their faces digitally blurred, brought some jurors to tears.

Prosecutors say the children were killed at about 4:20 p.m., shortly after returning home from school.

Lead homicide Detective Thomas Martin, a 16-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department, spent the entire day on the witness stand.

He testified that investigators spent hours at the apartment where the children were found and at the Baltimore County home shared by the defendants, collecting DNA evidence, including bloodied jeans and gloves, a floor tile with a muddy shoe print, hair, skin cell swabs, damp clothes from a washing machine and a partial bloody palm print from a window sill.

Several blood droplets and smears were found in both homes, but there were no signs of forced entry at the apartment where the children lived, Detective Martin said.

“You say no room was left unsearched and no drawer left unopened?” asked defense attorney Adam Sean Cohen.

“That is correct,” Detective Martin replied.

Prosecutors intend to rely heavily on DNA evidence to prove their case, but they have conceded that a motive for the slayings is “murky.”

On Monday, Alexis’ mother, Maria Andrea Espejo Quezada — the first witness to take the stand — testified that she had rebuffed sexual advances by Mr. Canela and his father, Victor Espinoza Perez, lending prosecutors a potential motive.

Defense attorneys yesterday tried to poke holes in the police investigation by questioning evidence-collection methods and alluding to potential crime scene contamination and poor photographic and video documentation of the scene.

Detective Martin conceded that no tangible fingerprints were available at the crime scene, and that at least one of the bodies was disturbed by relatives before police arrived.

“There was so much evidence we recovered that I don’t know if we did [submit certain evidence for testing] or we didn’t,” Detective Martin said.

James Rhodes, Mr. Canela’s attorney, has called the police investigation, scientific tests and evidence collection “one of the sloppiest, most convoluted pieces of police work I’ve seen in 10 years.”

He plans to prove that his client was not involved in the slayings and that Policarpio Espinoza Perez used Mr. Canela as an alibi.

The parents of the slain children sat in the courtroom during the afternoon portion of Detective Martin’s testimony. Relatives have expressed doubt that the defendants are the killers.

Mr. Rhodes has suggested that the children were killed as a warning to their family, which may have been involved in a human smuggling ring.

If convicted, Mr. Canela and Mr. Perez face life in prison.

The first trial ended last year in a hung jury.

Testimony will continue tomorrow.

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