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Emails read in 4th day of Aguirre case

By Katherine Wartell

Emails exchanged between Luis Aguirre and ex-girlfriend Tanya Maldonado were read to jurors Thursday in the fourth day of Aguirre’s capital murder trial. Aguirre is accused of murdering Maldonado and their 13-month-old son, Juan, on Sept. 21, 2009.

The emails were read by Sgt. Erin Freidline, who investigated the exchanges for the Riley County Police Department. They date between Jan. 16, 2009 and Oct. 10, 2009. For the majority of that time, Aguirre was living in Ogden with his new girlfriend and her son.

In the emails, Maldonado on several occasions asks Aguirre for assistance with Juan, who was born on Aug. 5, 2008. She also asks repeatedly when Aguirre will be back in Chicago and tells him she will take him to court if he does not start to help.

Tensions came to a head in an Aug. 29 email when Maldonado told Aguirre that she hated him and that he been a “pathetic” father to Juan. Aguirre replied, telling Maldonado that he wanted to discuss “fixing (their) situation” and that he wanted someone to settle down with.

As said in an interview with Riley County detectives on Nov. 3, 2009, Aguirre picked Maldonado and Juan up from Olive Branch Mission in Chicago and drove them to his Ogden apartment on Sep. 21, the same day they died.

Two emails were sent from Aguirre to Maldonado on Sep. 26 and on Oct. 10, 2009.

In the last email, Aguirre asks Maldonado, “So now you don’t want to answer me? I asked you a question, Tanya.”

The testimony followed Wednesday afternoon’s expert testimony from Erik Mitchell, a forensic pathologist who examined the bodies of Maldonado and Juan after they were found.

Mitchell’s testimony contradicted the version of events Aguirre gave to detectives in October and November 2009.

Mitchell told the court that he found what he believed were ante-mortem internal injuries on the left sides of Maldonado and Juan’s chest walls, which were caused by blunt trauma.

He said the injuries showed hemorrhaging and blood going into the tissue in a way that would not happen post-mortem.

Jurors were shown the autopsy photographs of Maldonado and Juan, including images of both of their chests with the soft tissue pulled back to expose the internal injuries Mitchell described. 

Mitchell said the injury to Maldonado’s chest would have been caused by a major event, citing a fall or getting hit by a car as an example, though he did not say either were the actual cause. He said he could not give an absolute determination of death, but said the injuries were not in line with injuries associated with receiving CPR.

Mitchell also contradicted the description of Juan’s death that Aguirre gave to Det. Ryan Runyan, saying the only way you could tuck a child in too tightly is if you wrap them very tightly, like a mummy.

“These are not accidental deaths,” Mitchell said.

Jeffrey Wicks, Aguirre’s defense attorney, argued that Mitchell was not given a full account of the health of Maldonado and Juan when he performed the autopsies, citing the series of emails between Aguirre and Maldonado where Maldonado mentions her high blood pressure and an illness that had been plaguing Juan.

Wicks also asked Mitchell about the possibility of SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome, saying the likelihood is increased when children sleep on their stomachs, are male, have a teen mother, live in poverty and sleep on a soft bed. Earlier in the trial, the defense had said that Aguirre found Juan lifeless on his stomach with a pacifier in his mouth.

Mitchell denied that Juan’s death was caused by SIDS, saying it was very unlikely, and that by definition, it could not have been SIDS since Juan was 13 months old. He also said that the statistical likelihood of two people dying within minutes of each other was small.

Aguirre was visibly agitated while the autopsy photographs were shown, shaking and covering his face with his hands, while his attorneys provided him with tissues.

On Wednesday, the state also called two employees of the Olive Branch Mission in Chicago, where Maldonado had been staying in the days leading up to her death. One woman, the night security officer, testified that she was there the night Aguirre came to pick up Maldonado. She said she did not like the suddenness of Maldonado leaving and tried to convince her to wait until morning.

She said Maldonado refused and that she was excited to leave with Aguirre.

At the time of publication Thursday, jurors had been excused so the state and Aguirre’s defense could conduct an evidentiary hearing regarding whether the testimony of Spencer Tomb, a professor of biology at Kansas State University, would be allowed. Tomb examined the grave-site after Maldonado and Juan were found, to determine how long the grave had been there. He said he believed them to be four to six weeks old.

According to the state, Tomb also determined that the grave had been opened prior to when Aguirre placed the bodies of Maldonado and Juan in it on the night of Sep. 21, 2009. Judge Meryl Wilson ruled that his testimony will be allowed. He is expected to address the jurors Thursday afternoon.

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