The capital murder trial of Luis Aguirre, accused of killing his ex-girlfriend, Tanya Maldonado, and their 13-month-old son, Juan, began Monday morning with opening statements by the state and Aguirre’s defense team.
Riley County Attorney Barry Wilkerson, representing the state with Assistant Riley County Attorney Barry Disney, told jurors that the state is arguing Aguirre, 24, murdered Maldonado and their son with premeditation on Sep. 21, 2009, in his Ogden apartment after he had picked them up from a Chicago mission, where the two had been staying, in the early hours of that same day.
He told jurors that prior to their deaths, Aguirre had begun a relationship with another woman, a soldier from Fort Riley, and that Maldonado, beginning in January 2009, had started exchanging increasingly desperate emails with Aguirre, pressing him to take a more active role in Juan’s life.
Wilkerson said that in August 2009, Maldonado sent Aguirre a particularly scathing email, to which Aguirre responded by saying that he wanted to discuss fixing their relationship. Wilkerson said that Maldonado told Aguirre she would need to have an answer by Sep. 20.
He told jurors that Aguirre murdered Maldonado and Juan because they had become an “albatross” for him. Their bodies were found in a shallow grave in Ogden on Oct. 25, 2009. In court, Wilkerson suggested that the grave had been dug 24 hours before their bodies were put into it.
Tim Frieden, who is representing Aguirre with Jeffrey Wicks, told jurors that the defense would not argue facts like the paternity of Juan but told jurors that the defense would argue that Aguirre did not intentionally murder Maldonado or Juan.
He said that Aguirre and Maldonado were in a volatile relationship and that when Aguirre had picked the two up from the mission in Chicago, he had no intention of bringing them back to his place in Ogden. Frieden said that Aguirre was watching his new girlfriend’s young son at the time, and that Maldonado knew of his new relationship, but that when they got back to his apartment, she became upset after seeing photos of the woman.
Frieden told jurors that they made dinner and ate, but that an argument broke out afterward when Maldonado tried to do the dishes. He said Aguirre told her to rest and when she refused, they began to fight.
Wilkerson had also relayed the story to jurors saying Aguirre, after telling different versions to detectives during interviews conducted after he was arrested, said that he slipped on the floor and pulled Maldonado down with her. She began to scream “help” and “rape.”
Wilkerson said that Aguirre told detectives he covered her mouth to get her to stop and that Maldonado eventually pushed him off before she started to yell again. He said Aguirre told detectives he then covered her mouth once again, this time for five minutes, during which time she stopped breathing.
Wilkerson said that Aguirre told detectives he then went to check on Juan and found that he was hanging partly off his bed, so he re-tucked him, tucking him too tightly. He said that the next time Aguirre checked on Juan he was dead.
Frieden told jurors that Juan had been face-down on his pillow the next time Aguirre checked on him. He said Aguirre tried to administer CPR, but that he was too scared to call the police. He said Aguirre didn’t call the police because he knew he would be questioned, and he had to consider his new girlfriend’s child as well. He said that at this point Aguirre’s girlfriend was deployed to Iraq and he was in charge of her son.
Frieden said Aguirre panicked and buried their bodies after driving around Ogden. He said he did not just dump their bodies into the grave but put Juan in Maldonado’s arms.
After opening statements, the state called its first witness, the deer hunter who discovered Maldonado and her son in their grave.
At the time of publication, Alan Riniker, a former detective and present civilian investigator for the RCPD, took the stand and is expected to be questioned into the afternoon. Riniker helped to exhume the bodies.
Over the course of the trial, expected to last two to four weeks, both the state and defense are expected to use emails between Maldonado and Aguirre and Aguirre’s own statements made to detectives after his October 2009 arrest as significant evidence.