Court finds sufficient evidence for trial in brutal stabbing of Pennsylvania man
Mérida, Yucatán -
Four men who are suspects in the murder of former Arizona resident Robert Leon Wickard have been ordered to stand trial after a local criminal judge Monday found enough evidence to proceed with the case.
On May 29 the judge ordered that Martín Alejandro Gómez Gómez, 26, Gianri Lorenzo Matos Montalvo, 18, Edward Jesús Gamboa Salas, 36 and David Wilfrido Pérez Morán, 26, be held for 30 days while the case was investigated. Yesterday (June 25) he ruled there is "sufficient evidence of the commission of the crime of homicide" to warrant a trial. A fifth suspect, Angel Javier Segovia Domínguez, remains at large and is being sought. Monday's ruling is the functional equivalent of an indictment or probable cause finding in the U.S. legal system.
Martín Gómez Gómez, originally from Veracruz and one of the two men whom police think stabbed Wickard, is a prostitute. Lorenzo Matos Montalvo, a/k/a "Janet," is a transvestite. Angel Segovia Domínguez became Wickard's lover after the two men met in Campeche earlier this year and began living together in Wickard's rented Mérida residence, in the San Sebastian district. Segovia invited the other men to move in with them, which led to tensions, according to statements the men have given to prosecutors and Public Ministry officials. An argument erupted over the housing arrangement, and at least two of the men stabbed Wickard to death. They buried him in an interior garden of the house, and began dividing up and selling or pawning off his personal property.
The men continued to live in the house for more than two weeks. A police patrol checking out a reported residential burglary chanced by the home early on the morning of May 25, and noticed the men hauling a television set out the front door to a waiting taxi. Alerted by the strong odor of the decaying corpse, which was noticeable on the street according to their reports, the police entered the house and dug up Wickard's partially covered body.
Gómez Gómez has told that court that Wickard, whom he described as "a homosexual," was killed a few days before May 13. Wickard, a Pennsylvania native who spent 27 years in the Phoenix area according to family members, was 67 at the time of his death.
In a collateral legal proceeding known as amparo under Mexican law, David Pérez Morán is asking that evidence against him be suppressed, or that the charges be dismissed. Pérez Morán maintains he was unable to communicate with his attorney and that he was mistreated while in law enforcement custody. The other defendants have also claimed that they were "tortured" by police, according to a local press account (Pasan del arraigo a la detención cinco acusados). A different judge will rule later on the men's amparo claims.
There is no constitutional right to bail in Mexico, and defendants are allowed to post bond only in petty cases. The suspects will remain incarcerated until the case is over. In spite of recent major legal reforms criminal trials here often occur in stages, proceed at a snail's pace and may not result in a verdict or decision for months. No trial date has been set.
July 3 - In a surprise development today charges against two of four defendants were dismissed for lack of evidence. Gianri Lorenzo Matos Montalvo, 18, and Edward Jesús Gamboa Salas, 36, were freed after they told the court that they knew nothing about the murder until they were invited to Wickard's house by the other men. By then he was already dead and buried, they claim. Prosecutors were unable to present evidence to the contrary.
Martín Alejandro Gómez Gómez, 26, and David Wilfrido Pérez Morán, 26, remain in police custody, facing charges of robbery and murder. Both have made substantial admissions to prosecutors, according to today's story in Diario de Yucatán. Authorities continue their search for a fifth man, Angel Javier Segovia Domínguez, who was Wickard's lover and one of the men who stabbed him in his San Sebastian district home, according to investigators.
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