For the first time in three trials in the 2004 slashing deaths of three children in Northwest Baltimore, jurors on Monday heard a nine-year-old statement by one of the suspects describing his nephew emerging shirtless from a rear window of the apartment in which the victims were killed.
The tape-recorded statement by Policarpio Espinoza Perez, charged in the killings with his nephew, Adan Espinoza Canela, was played in Baltimore Circuit Court for the first time since the May 2004 killings of three young relatives because he is now being tried separately.
In the first two trials — the first ended in a mistrial and the second was overturned on appeal — Espinoza Perez and Espinoza Canela were tried together.
But now, with the two men being tried separately, Espinoza Perez's attorney submitted a statement his client gave to police the day after the killings that puts Espinoza Canela in the home about the time the children's throats were slashed.
It was never played in court before because it would have infringed on Espinoza Canela's constitutional right to confront an accuser. Such a confrontation is not possible when the accuser is a co-defendant.
Espinoza Perez and Espinoza Canela were arrested based on blood evidence found on clothing and witnesses' accounts that placed them near the crime scene before the killings.
On Monday, jurors heard the tape recording of the account Espinoza Perez gave to a Baltimore homicide detective and a Spanish-speaking officer acting as an interpreter.
About 4:20 p.m. on May 27, Espinoza Perez said in the recording, he and Espinoza Canela drove to the apartment where the children and Canela's father lived. Espinoza Perez said he stayed in the truck while Canela went inside. He said Canela wanted to talk to his father about something, and Espinoza Perez figured they needed to be alone.
"The kids opened the door for him," he said, though it wasn't clear if Espinoza Perez had seen them open the door. He said Espinoza Canela was inside for about 12 minutes.
Espinoza Perez said he then watched Canela crawl, now shirtless, out of a rear window of the apartment. Espinoza Perez said Canela told him to move the car to a nearby school parking lot and wait for him there.
They then drove to a store on Broadway, he said, and walked around for a bit before Espinoza Canela bought a shirt.
Espinoza Perez said he didn't tell family members that he and Espinoza Canela had been at the apartment just before the killings because he was "scared."
Darryl Massey, the former homicide detective sergeant who interviewed Espinoza Perez, testified Monday that he tried to confirm the shopping part of the story but couldn't.
But Panteleakis said the story fits other pieces of evidence: Blood spots were found outside the rear window, and suspected blood was also found on a chain-link fence pole nearby. The alleged murder weapon was found outside a fence in the rear.
"Whether [jurors] believe this version, it's up to them," Panteleakis said. "But it fits the evidence perfectly."