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Aguirre defense rests; jury hears closing arguments

By Katherine Wartell

After a one-week trial, closing statements were made Friday morning in the capital murder case against Luis Aguirre, accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Tanya Maldonado, and their 13-month-old son, Juan.

Though the trial was estimated to last two to four weeks, the state rested its case Thursday afternoon, and Jeffrey Wicks, one of Aguirre’s defense attorneys, announced Friday morning that the defense rested its case as well. He said that they would not be calling any witnesses to the stand, and Aguirre would not testify.

The state, represented by Riley County Attorney Barry Wilkerson and Assistant Riley County Attorney Barry Disney, asked jurors to consider the evidence and find that Maldonado and Juan were killed intentionally and with premeditation.

Aguirre has claimed that both deaths are accidental. In his closing statement, Disney said, “That’s like someone being eaten by a shark while being struck by lightning, while having the winning lottery ticket in his pocket.”

Tim Frieden, part of Aguirre’s defense, asked the jurors to consider the lesser sentences, like second-degree murder, manslaughter, or even not guilty, for which he said there was evidence, when examining the facts of the case. “It doesn’t quite come to what [the state] wants it to be,” he said.

Frieden said Aguirre had exhibited remorse and that the deaths were not premeditated.

At the time of publication, members of the jury had begun deliberations. If they find Aguirre guilty of capital murder, they will have to decide whether to sentence the death penalty or life without the possibility of parole.

A K-State biology professor who examined the gravesite where the bodies of Maldonado and Juan were found in October 2009 was the last witness to be called by the state Thursday afternoon.

The bodies of Maldonado and Juan were found by a deer hunter on Oct. 25, 2009, in a shallow grave located near a soybean field in the 6300 block of 32nd Street in Ogden.

Spencer Tomb, a botanist who holds a doctorate in cytogenetics, testified that he was called to the gravesite by former detective Alan Riniker on Oct. 26, 2009, and that based upon his examination the grave was four to six weeks old.

In an interview with detectives, Aguirre said he buried his ex-girlfriend and his child not long after both accidentally died in his Ogden apartment on the night of Sep. 21, 2009. Aguirre told detectives that he panicked and that his first reaction was to try to hide the deaths. He said he knew he should have called the police and repeated several times that their deaths were not planned.

But Tomb’s testimony contradicted that version of events when he suggested that, based upon further examination, the grave had been opened three or four days before Maldonado and Juan were placed inside.

He based his conclusion on flattened Box Elder leaves found under the body of Maldonado that had stacked three high, saying that build-up would not have been possible in the short time Aguirre claimed to have dug the grave and placed the two inside.

Aguirre’s defense objected to Tomb’s testimony and argued that Tomb in his original report first stated that the grave would have been opened 12 hours prior to when the bodies of Maldonado and Juan were placed inside but later changed his opinion to three to four days.

Updates on the jury’s deliberation can be found at as they become available.

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