Opening arguments began Tuesday in the Annapolis trial of a man accused in a late night shooting nearly six years ago that left an alleged pimp dead and helped unravel a prostitution business in the state's capital city.
Ricardo Humberto Rivas-Ramirez was found shot dead in a Cadillac that had rolled down Janwall Street shortly after midnight on Sept. 13, 2008, according to police and prosecutors. Beside him in the passenger's seat was a wounded passenger who police said was a prostitute in his employ.
Kerlin Fuentes, 26, is charged with the shooting, and in opening statements Tuesday, Anne Arundel County Deputy State's Attorney William D. Roessler said Fuentes got into the back seat of the vehicle and shot the two victims before jumping out and running off. Roessler alleged Fuentes worked for a rival pimp, German de Jesus Ventura, who he said wanted to eliminate competition in the Hispanic prostitution trade in Annapolis, Roessler said.
The case remained unsolved for years, Roessler said. By 2010, Annapolis Police had matched DNA from Fuentes to DNA evidence found in the back seat of the car. It wasn't until 2011 that another person, who prosecutors said was a former prostitute, came forward to say she heard Fuentes and Ventura talking about the murder and police charged Fuentes.
Defense attorney Karl H. Gordon, in his opening statement, cast doubt on the prosecution's witnesses – the former prostitute and the prostitute who was injured in the shooting. Gordon noted that at one point, the injured woman had told police that Fuentes was not the man who shot her.
In the years since the murder, Fuentes, Ventura and three other men were convicted of federal charges related to prostitution and running brothels in Annapolis and Easton.
Fuentes, who also goes by the name Kevin Fuertes, was sentenced last year to 19 years in federal prison on charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy. He is currently serving that term, and faces up to life in prison on the charge of first-degree murder in this case.
Ventura was sentenced last year to 35 years in federal prison on charges of conspiring to transport women across state lines for prostitution, transporting women for position, sex trafficking and using a gun while sex trafficking. According to federal authorities, Ventura was the leader and employed Fuentes to manage and advertise the brothels, with the two men splitting the profits.
Jose Antonio Reyes-Maradiaga, Isidro Jiminez-Sanchez and Wibert Alejandro Herrera-Aranda pleaded guilty to their roles in the prostitution ring. All three have been deported.
Fuentes' jury trial in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court is scheduled to last through next week.
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