In the vacuum, theories have flourished. At trial Garcia suggested romantic jealousies in the large family. Panteleakis proposed in an interview that the crime led back to a vengeful figure in Mexico and said his client was not connected.

The two men were quickly arrested and charged with the May 27 killings. But Noemi "Mimi" Quezada and Ricardo Espinoza Perez, the parents of Lucero and Ricardo, have consistently said they think the two are innocent and, like many of the witnesses, they are expected to be called for both the prosecution and the defense.

The couple has been working with Panteleakis to gather evidence for the third trial. Friday morning, Ricardo Perez came by the lawyer's office to drop off clothes for Policarpio Perez, his brother, to wear in court. He declined to be interviewed.

Shortly after being taken into custody, Policarpio Perez told police that he was never inside the apartment where the children were killed, according charging documents in the case. He said he dropped Canela off and waited outside.

The statement has only been presented at the previous trials in heavily redacted form because attorneys for Canela could not question Policarpio Perez to challenge his accusation. Panteleakis said that gave an "inaccurate" picture of Perez's actions, but it can now be introduced in full.

"It's going to make a lot more sense," he added.

Murphy said the full statement will not be used in Canela's trial and does not think Panteleakis's strategy will harm him.

Panteleakis also said he thinks more will be revealed about the relationship between Alexis Quezada's mother, Maria Andrea Espejo Quezada, and her husband. At the second trial, Noemi Quezada reluctantly told the judge that he had made threats against the family, but the testimony caught lawyers off guard and was only presented to the jury in general terms.

In the second trial, prosecutors suggested that Guadalupe Hernandez, Canela's stepmother and Perez's sister-in-law, might have orchestrated the killings to get revenge on Victor Perez for having an affair.

To advance the theory, prosecutors introduced phone records that they said showed Hernandez was in constant communication with Policarpio Perez that day in May. Even though Hernandez is imprisoned, Judge M. Brooke Murdock ruled that her prior testimony could not be used, making it hard for prosecutors to make good use of those records, according to Garcia.

Panteleakis and Murphy, perhaps not surprisingly, thought Murdock had ruled fairly.

"As the unreliable evidence has been winnowed down or excluded the case against both of them really gets weaker," Murphy said. "The reason it's a weak case is because they didn't do it.

"It's sort of simple."

iduncan@baltsun.com

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