- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 6, 2006

BALTIMORE — Prosecutors say the mother of two of the three children found slain in May 2004 knew about the killings days before they were carried out.

Mimi Espinoza Quezada testified yesterday that she spoke alone for about 15 minutes with her husband’s brother Policarpio Espinoza Perez, 24, and his nephew Adan Canela, 19, a day after she suffered a miscarriage and a day before her two children and their cousin were nearly beheaded.

Mr. Perez and Mr. Canela — two illegal aliens from Mexico — are accused of nearly beheading Mrs. Quezada’s children, Ricardo Solis Quezada, 9, and Lucero Solis Quezada, 8, and their cousin Alexis Espejo Quezada, 10.

Mrs. Quezada told jurors yesterday that her husband had asked Mr. Perez and Mr. Canela to check on her following the miscarriage. But, she did not disclose the contents of the conversation she had with Mr. Perez and Mr. Canela the day before the slayings.

Assistant State’s Attorney Sharon R. Holback hinted that Mrs. Quezada was reluctant because she played a role in the killings.

Miss Holback asked Mrs. Quezada why she prayed to St. Jude Thaddeus, the Catholic patron saint of lost or impossible causes, instead of calling the children after they did not check in with her after school on May 27, 2004, the day of the slayings.

“If your children called you ‘every single day’ [after school] and they didn’t this day, why did you pray instead of calling them?” Miss Holback asked. “Why didn’t you call your children and warn them?”

Mrs. Quezada and Alexis’ mother, Maria Andrea Espejo Quezada, have testified that they “sensed” something bad had happened as they drove home from work on May 27.

Mrs. Quezada testified yesterday that she “felt desperate” to get home to the children as she waited for another relative who was driving to leave a bank.

“I felt I had a very bad headache, and I felt desperate,” she told jurors, adding that she did not know why she didn’t call home. “I wanted to get home, but there was a lot of traffic.”

Prosecutors also have suggested that Mr. Canela’s father, Victor Espinoza Perez, played a role in the slayings. They contend that he might have been angered when Alexis’ mother rebuffed his advances and that he might have made threatening comments when he picked up Mrs. Quezada from the hospital days before the killings.

The theory that family members might have played a role in the slayings fits the defense’s suggestion that the killings are linked to a family secret surrounding the family’s failure to pay debts associated with a human smuggling ring.

At times yesterday, Mrs. Quezada appeared uncooperative, saying she either couldn’t remember or changing the dates and times of key events.

Defense attorneys argue that it is logical that she might have made misstatements during recordings made less than 12 hours after her children’s deaths. They also said praying to saints is common.

Prosecutors asked why she hesitated when asked if she would tell police if she knew who killed the children.

“I might have hesitated because … all of this makes me very tense to remember this all over again,” Mrs. Quezada said. But, “of course, even if I lost my own life for it [I would go to the police]. … There’s no way I’d cover up for something I shouldn’t cover.”

When asked whether anyone had threatened her, she refused to answer in front of the jury and asked to speak with the judge. The jury was told to leave the courtroom.

After a conference with the judge and the attorneys, Mrs. Quezada told jurors that she suspected that Maria Andrea Espejo Quezada’s ex-husband was involved in the crimes.

If convicted, Mr. Canela and Mr. Perez face life in prison. The first trial in the case ended last year in a hung jury.

Witness testimony will continue today.

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