-- Two defendants pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of murdering three children in their extended family, beheading one child and cutting the throats of the other two.
Circuit Court Judge John M. Glynn scheduled trial for Dec. 13 for Policarpio Espinoza Perez, 22, and his nephew Adan Espinoza Canela, 17. They were arrested a day after the slayings in May.
The men were supported in court by the mothers of the slain children and other family members who have maintained that Espinoza Canela and Espinoza Perez are innocent. One of the relatives flashed a thumbs up at the defendants as they were taken from the courtroom.
Outside the courthouse, defense attorneys said that the state had not turned over any evidence that the defense considers incriminating.
"On Dec. 13, I am daring the state to bring forth evidence that will implicate my client," said James L. Rhodes, the attorney for Espinoza Canela.
Timothy M. Dixon, Espinoza Perez's attorney, said: "I have no idea why my client is charged with a crime. There doesn't seem to be any evidence of it."
Authorities have said blood evidence links Espinoza Perez to the killings.
The motive for the slayings of the children, ages 8, 9 and 10, remains unclear. Prosecutor Sharon R. Holback declined to comment on a motive after the hearing Tuesday.
Espinoza Perez's brother, Ricardo Espinoza, came home from work May 27 and found the bodies of his daughter Lucero Quezada, 8, and son Ricardo Espinoza, 9, and their cousin Alexis Espejo, 10. All three children lived in Ricardo Espinoza's apartment in the 7000 block of Park Heights Avenue in Baltimore.
Espinoza Canela is not eligible for capital punishment because of his age. Prosecutors have not said whether they intend to seek the death penalty against Policarpio Espinoza Perez, whose name until Tuesday had been given as Policarpio Espinoza. A Mexican diplomat urged prosecutors to refrain from deciding whether to seek the death penalty until his government has had time to help the defense gather mitigating evidence in Mexico.
In a letter, Edgardo Flores Rivas, the embassy's head of consular affairs, said the Mexican government had been following the case "with great interest and concern." He said it is the policy of the Mexican government, which opposes the death penalty, to assist the defense in capital cases involving Mexican nationals.
According to court documents, Espinoza Perez told police he waited in the car while Espinoza Canela entered the apartment shortly before 5 p.m. -- just after the children arrived home from school and minutes before the bodies were discovered. Espinoza Perez said that he saw Espinoza Canela leave the apartment through a rear window, and that later, when they met in a nearby parking lot, Espinoza Canela was not wearing his shirt.
Police said they found a bloody shirt and towel at the home where the suspects were living.