Day 5 of La Mesa Street Murders Trial; Prosecution says Strong acted alone

Day 5: La Mesa Street Murders trial

Yuma, AZ - Tuesday morning the state called for two witnesses in regards to phone records from 35-year-old victim Luis Rios, in the "La Mesa Street Murders" trial.

The first witness, Sharlene Choice, a security response personnel, from CenturyLink reviewed phone records from 2005. 

Ryan Harger, supervisor of Sprint network customer records, was also brought to the witness stand detailing records of, Luis Rios, from 2005.  

The two cell phone company representatives were interviewed on how they track cell phone activity but no further questions were asked. 

The trial resumed Tuesday afternoon when retired Yuma Police Department Homicide Detective, Clay Pouquette, once again took the stand. 

The prosecution questioned Pouquette about evidence gathered from the backyard of the home, near the area Rios was found injured, on June 24, 2005. Pouquette said they recovered two separate cords: a phone cord and a cell phone cord. According to Pouquette, the cords had been tied around Rios' hands and paramedics had cut them off while providing assistance. 

The prosecution asked if Pouquette had noticed anything unusual about the cords, specifically about the objects they had been attached to. Pouquette answered that they had not been able to find their match, saying, "It seems the other end was gone, suggesting it was removed."

The cables were also tied together in knots, according to Pouquette.

The prosecution asked Pouquette if there were similarities in the cord knots found tied around Rios's body and the other victims but Pouquette said they performed no scientific investigation into the knots. However, Pouquette said that there were similarities in the cords themselves; they all appeared to belong to easily accessible household items. 

The prosecution then questioned Pouquette about two bags found at the front porch of the home, near the front door. They were filled with children's clothing and a baseball glove.

Pouquette was then questioned about processing the family's vehicles for evidence. He answered that they had processed a PT cruiser in the driveway. Then he was asked about a Dodge Durango, that Rios usually drove. Pouquette answered that they had become aware the Durango was missing.

When asked how he knew it was missing, Pouquette replied, "Rios was home, the vehicle was not, nor was it at his work." The prosecution said they would return to questioning about the vehicles at a later time. 

Prosecutor Karolyn Kaczorowski said, "We want to stay with the victims, but we will return to talking about the cars later."

Kaczorowski then proceeded to ask Pouquette questions regarding the autopsies of the victims. 

Pouquette said that due to the case being a criminal case, the victims' bodies were sent to the Medical Examiner in Pima County. 

The jury was then sent on a brief break. The prosecution and defense deliberated over what evidence and pictures from the autopsies would be permitted. 

(During the deliberation, KYMA reporter Garna Mejia was absent from the majority of the deliberation, after the break ended abruptly and the courtroom was closed to anyone standing outside. This included several victim family members and the reporter.)

Upon being allowed back into the courtroom, the KYMA reporter noted Kaczorowski as saying, " We are not looking to unfairly inflame the jury but they need to know what happened at this home. The victims can show it."

"It is clear that this crime was done by one person. Clear it is one person and only one person," Kaczorowski continued.

According to Kaczorowski, the autopsies of the victims show that Preston Strong acted alone. Kaczorowski says Danny Heredia's autopsy will link the victims all to one murderer, one reason being that Heredia was found with cords still wrapped around his body. 

The jury was then allowed back in the courtroom and the prosecution resumed questioning over the autopsies, beginning with 6-year-old Danny Heredia's autopsy. 

Pouquette told the courtroom that Heredia had a gunshot wound on the upper right part of his forehead, near the hairline. Pouquette said that based on his experience, Heredia had been shot at a very close proximity. 

Prosecutors asked about the evidence collected from Heredia's body which included a curling iron cable tied around his hands and another cable running down to his feet, tied by a third cable.

The prosecution asked Pouquette if he had ligature markings on his right hand similar to the ones found on 9-year-old Inez Newman's fingers.

Pouquette replied that he, "couldn't determine similarities as to types of bindings but yes, all of the bindings appear to be from household items."

Danny Heredia's body also had a grey cloth-like material tied around his neck, and it was holding a plastic bag in place, according to Pouquette. 

Pouquette said the bag had blood splatter and a hole, similar to a bullet hole.

The bag was not admitted as evidence for the jury after the defense's objections.

Superior Court Judge Maria Elena Cruz sustained the objection saying, "The witness has a hard time identifying the item and the chain of custody of the bag has been lost track of."

Day 6 of the trial will resume on Thursday, February 23, 2017. 






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