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Guide to the case

Ever since the slashing deaths of three children May 27, 2004, in NorthwestBaltimore, city residents have tried to make some sense of the brutalcrime. But it has not been easy. The victims and the defendants, PolicarpioEspinoza and Adan Canela, all are part of a large family of illegal Mexicanimmigrants who moved to Baltimore. Few of the family members speak English,and the relationships among the relatives are confusing.

When the first trial, last summer, ended in a hung jury, jurors said theywere frustrated by the confusion and by unanswered questions, particularlyconcerning motive.

"It was a big puzzle and a lot of missing pieces," said juror Keith Brown,who said he voted to convict one defendant and acquit the other.

This guide summarizes what The Sun has previously reported about the crime,the people involved and the first trial.

Second trialBegan with jury selection June 22, 2006, in Courtroom 1 of Courthouse Eastin Baltimore Circuit Court (related story); Spanish-language interpreters will be present throughout.

Judge: Circuit Judge David B. Mitchell
Prosecutors: Assistant State's Attorney Sharon R. Holback (main) andTony N. Garcia (second chair)
Defendants: Policarpio Espinoza, 24 (Attorney: Nicholas Panteleakis); Adan Canela, 19 (Attorneys: James Rhodes (main) and Adam Sean Cohen (secondchair))

Policarpio Espinoza is Adan Canela's uncle and an uncle of the deadchildren. Adan Canela is a cousin of the dead children.

The charges:Each defendant is charged with three counts of first-degree murder andthree counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. The conspiracycharges involve "persons unknown," alluding to other possible perpetrators.(related story)

The Baltimore state's attorney's office is not seeking the death penaltyfor either man. (related story)

Victims:

  • Lucero Espinoza, 8 (female)
  • Ricardo Espinoza, 9 (male)
  • Alexis Espejo Quezada, 10 (male)Lucero and Ricardo are siblings. Alexis is a cousin of Lucero andRicardo.Relatives:Victor Espinoza Perez
    • Oldest brother of Policarpio and Ricardo Espinoza Perez
    • Husband of Guadalupe
    • Father of Adan
    Guadalupe Juarez Hernandez
    • Wife of Victor
    • Stepmother of Adan
    Ricardo Espinoza Perez
    • Father of Ricardo and Lucero
    • Older brother of Policarpio; younger brother of Victor
    • Husband of Noemi
    Noemi "Mimi" Espinoza Quezada
    • Mother of Ricardo and Lucero
    • Wife of Ricardo Espinoza Perez
    • Aunt of Maria Andrea
    Maria Andrea Espejo Quezada
    • Mother of Alexis
    • Niece of Noemi
    • Possible romantic interest of Victor and Adan
    Notes: Relatives of the dead children have consistently said in interviewsand testified in court that they do not believe Policarpio Espinoza andAdan Canela are guilty. (related story No. 1), (related story No. 2)First trialBegan with jury selection July 6, 2005, in Courtroom 1 of Courthouse East inBaltimore Circuit Court; Spanish-language interpreters were present throughout.Judge: Circuit Judge Thomas Ward
    Prosecutors:Assistant State's Attorney Sharon R. Holback (main) and Tony N.Garcia (second chair)
    Defendants: Policarpio Espinoza (Attorneys: Timothy M. Dixon (main) and Nicholas Panteleakis(second chair)); Adan Canela (Attorneys: James Rhodes (main) and Adam Sean Cohen (secondchair))Key DNA evidence: One pair of blue jeans found in the trunk of the Pontiac Grand Amused by the defendants was stained with the children's blood and had insideskin cells consistent with Canela's genetics.A second pair of blue jeans was found in the Baltimore County home ofthe defendants. Those jeans were stained with the children's blood and hadinside skin cells consistent with Espinoza's genetics.Black loafers worn by Espinoza when he was arrested had on them atiny droplet of what is most likely blood. The droplet contained DNAconsistent with the youngest victim's genetics.Two bloody gloves also were found in the Pontiac. Both had DNAconsistent with Espinoza and one also had DNA consistent with Canela. (related story)The verdict: Trial included five weeks of testimony and about 300 pieces ofevidence. Jurors deliberated for 10 days before Judge Ward declared amistrial Aug. 30 because of a hung jury. Jurors reported being split 6-6 onwhether to convict Canela and 8-4 in favor of convicting Espinoza. (related story No. 1), (related story No. 2)Basics of the crimeThe three children were killed May 27, 2004, in their bedrooms at thefamily's apartment in Northwest Baltimore. The Samester apartment complexis on Park Heights Avenue in Fallstaff.All three children were beaten and had their throats cut so deeplythat they were nearly decapitated. The boys also were strangled. (related story)The children were students at Cross Country Elementary School and werekilled about 4:20 p.m., just after coming home from school. (related story)The children and the murder suspects all are part of a large familyof illegal immigrants from a small village in Veracruz, Mexico. (related story)The motiveMotive has remained a mystery. Prosecutors said during closingarguments of the first trial that it was "some secret buried in thefamily." Defense attorneys have suggested that the children may have beenthe victims of a hate crime. (related story)During the first trial, Canela's attorneys suggested that Canela'sfather, Victor Espinoza Perez, was responsible for illegally transportingpeople from Mexico and had a romantic interest in one of the mothers of theslain children. Neither suggestion fully developed into a theory for thecrime. Canela also had propositioned Maria Andrea Espejo Quezada, the samewoman his father was interested in, her testimony revealed. She said sherejected both men. (related story)Prosecutors said throughout the trial that Espinoza and GuadalupeJuarez Hernandez exchanged a flurry of phone calls the day of thekillings, raising suspicions about her.--Julie Bykowicz
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