Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Heated" Argument Preceeded Murders, Flight to Ecuador

By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—One roommate of a Brockton mother found dead with her son in a Brockton dumpster is in custody pending $50,000 cash bail and another roommate—an illegal immigrant with a violent criminal record--is being sought for questioning, but is likely in Ecuador, a country officials say where he fled just 2 ½ hours after authorities discovered the bodies of 25-year-old Maria Avelina Palaguachi-Cela and her 2-year-old son Brian.
“We’re going to use everything we can use and deal with all the appropriate agencies and countries and people in between to make sure we get justice for this little boy and this woman,” said Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz during a press conference following the arraignment of one of the roommates living with Palaguachi-Cela and her son Brian.
Aparicio Velencia De La Cruz, 34, a suspected illegal immigrant from Mexico and one of Palaguachi-Cela’s roommates, was held on $50,000 cash bail during his arraignment in Brockton District Court today on a charge of withholding information from investigators that could have led law enforcement personnel to search for another roommate--Luis Guaman--at airports in Massachusetts or New York. (Guaman pictured above)
Prosecutors said during more than five hours of interrogation while in custody, De La Cruz did not tell officials that Guaman had plane tickets to Ecuador and only told officials Guaman was heading to New York City.
It wasn’t until authorities talked to De La Cruz’s girlfriend and far too late, did they learn Guaman might be flying back to his native country. (De La Cruz pictured below with lawyer Jonathan Moriarty)
Cruz said Guaman—under the alias Segundo Castro—flew from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport to Ecuador at 12:01 a.m. Monday, Feb. 14—just 2 ½ hours after police were led to a dumpster at the corner of Warren Avenue and West Park Street where the bodies of Palaguachi-Cela and her son Brian were found Sunday at about 9:30 p.m.
“He is the last person to see her, and he’s gone,” Cruz said.
Cruz did not call Guaman a prime suspect, but during the bail hearing for De La Cruz, Assistant District Attorney Thomas Flanagan said Guaman was the last person to see Palaguachi-Cela alive and the pair had a “heated and passionate” argument because their relationship had ended. Prosecutors said Palaguachi-Cela was overheard telling Guaman she did not love him anymore.
Along with living with Guaman and De La Cruz in an apartment at 427 Warren Ave., Palaguachi-Cela also lived with the father of the murdered boy, Manuel Jesus Caguana, who was working in Virginia when mother and son went missing. Prosecutors said Caguana and De La Cruz are not considered suspects in the murders.
Caguana and Palaguachi-Cela are from Ecuador, but Cruz would not say if they are here legally or not.
Cruz declined to call the situation a love triangle.
“A 2-year-old boy is dead. What does that have to do with a love triangle,” Cruz said.
Cruz said the investigation has been complicated by language barriers, communication issues with criminal records, Guaman’s aliases and there will be more issues to overcome now that Guaman is likely in Ecuador—a country Cruz said does not have extradition rights with the United States.
Cruz said all avenues of diplomacy and legalities will be used to have Guaman returned to the U.S. for questioning in the murders, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, and the FBI are already working on the case.
Cruz said it is believed Guaman bought the plane tickets either last Friday or Saturday, and the bodies of the mother and toddler were probably in the dumpster for several days before police were notified.
Cruz reiterated the mother and child were beaten to death and their bodies were found intact and not mutilated, but would not say what the weapon was.
With the evidence that has been collected, Cruz said, his office could argue that the murders might have been premeditated.
Cruz said authorities have found no evidence that Guaman entered the U.S. legally and outlined a past of violent crimes under his real name and aliases.
Cruz said Guaman, 33, is wanted in New York under his own name for felony kidnapping with malice and assault charges.
Under the alias Antonio Castro, Guaman has a pending case for assault and battery in Brockton when police used Mace on Guaman/Castro during the arrest, Cruz said.
Guaman also faces charges in Milford for assault and battery.
During De La Cruz’s arraignment, his defense attorney Jonathan Moriarty argued De La Cruz did not believe he was lying or withheld information and was shocked by the horrible images he was shown of the murdered bodies.
Moriarty said De La Cruz—who was told by a translator what was being said in the court room-- is a hard-working roofer, who could not pay the $50,000 cash bail which would be tantamount to being placed in custody. Moriarty said he had not been shown evidence that De La Cruz is an illegal immigrant and is not a flight risk.
A plea of not guilty was entered on De La Cruz’s behalf.
Assistant District Attorney Flanagan argued De La Cruz is an illegal immigrant from Mexico with no local ties to the area and could be a flight risk if bail was lowered and De La Cruz was released on his own recognizance.
Judge Paul McCallum ruled the $50,000 cash bail would stand and all of De La Cruz’s court records be impounded for the duration of the case.

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