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Updated: Monday, 09 May 2011, 11:18 AM CDT
Published : Friday, 06 May 2011, 12:40 PM CDT
AUSTIN (KXAN) - More family members were questioned Friday afternoon as the capital murder trial of Areli Escobar continued after a break for lunch.
Emilio Lopez is the son of the defendant's former girlfriend, Zoe Lopez. He told prosecutors he received text messages from his mother on the night of Bianca Maldonado's murder two years ago . He reported that she was angry and that some of her texts worried him because his mother thought Escobar had raped someone.
He said his mother discussed with him what had happened with Areli Escobar, the texts and the phone call with the screaming voice on the other end.
Emilio Lopez learned about the murder while watching the news that Sunday night and said he kept his eyes and ears open for anything particularly strange. He said it seemed like too much of a coincidence and he urged his mother to call police and also contacted police himself.
After the witness was dismissed, Nancy Escobar, 21, sister of the defendant was called to the stand. She said she went out the night of the murder with her brother and some other friends. They went to Escapade, a club nearby the Huntington apartments, before coming home sometime between 2:30 a.m. and 3 a.m.
She said her brother was drinking but not drunk. His walking appeared to be normal and he did not appear to be injured and had no cuts or swelling on his face.
Nancy Escobar said Zoe Lopez went straight back to Areli Escobar's room and did not see the two again. It was her assumption that they were upset with each other.
After going to bed, Nancy Escobar said she was awakened by a text message from Zoe Lopez. Nancy said she was angry and she felt Areli Escobar was cheating on her and having sex with another girl.
Nancy Escobar then got a text from her mother asking if her brother had been in a fight at the club because he looked like he had been beat up and had blood on his clothes. Nancy Escobar next texted Zoe Lopez with word of what her mother had just said.
She testified that her brother appeared to be injured the next time she saw him.
“His back was killing him, he was complaining about his wrist, he had marks on his face.”
Nancy Escobar said Areli Escobar told her he was beaten up at the apartment by some guys who were upset that he was "burning rubber."
Before being dismissed from the witness stad, she said she had never heard of Bianca Maldonado before. On her way out of the courtroom, she gave a small smile to her brother sitting at the defendant’s table.
An interpreter helped with the testimony of Areli Escobar's mother, Valeria Escobar. She struggled with the first few questions, saying she does not remember the details of what is being asked.
The jury was dismissed for a few minutes while attorneys reviewed statements made by Valeria Escobar.
After court resumed, the defendant's mother still struggled to remember much of the details about the night Areli Escobar showed up to her house wearing a bloody shirt. She was dismissed from the witness stand, but not before requesting to say something before the court. Her request was denied.
Next, Rosa Escobar was called to testify. She is the woman who introduced Areli Escobar to her friend, Zoe Lopez.
When talking about the phone call she got from Zoe Lopez, she said Lopez was crying hysterically because she thought Areli Escobar was cheating on her. She said Zoe Lopez asked if she knew who the girl was.
Rosa Escobar testified that Areli Escobar told her he had been jumped, and his back was injured and nose bloodied. He told her he had been in two fights; one before and one after leaving his mother’s house.
Rosa said that a couple of days before he was arrested, Areli Escobar could barely walk and she wanted to take him to see a doctor.
Testimony resumed Friday morning in the second day of the trial. Court opened with testimony from a crime scene specialist who took pictures and collected evidence from the scene on May 31, 2009.
The body of 17-year-old Bianca Maldonado was found early that morning by her sister, Dania, now 16, and mother, Jacqueline Hernandez, after they returned home from working a paper delivery route. The 1-year-old son of Bianca was found lying face down at his mother's feet. The boy survived, but was in the room when his mother was killed.
The specialist showed the jury a pair of blue, blood-stained shorts. He displayed a blood-stained red shirt that he said was cut off the baby by paramedics before he was taken to the hospital and said that a diaper with blood on it was taken as evidence from the apartment.
Detective Charles Riley was called as the second witness of the day. He specializes in digital evidence.
Riley said he met with Zoe Lopez, Escobar's former girlfriend, after the crime. She gave him permission to go through her cell phone to retrieve information. Riley said he seached the memory and SIM card where he found text messages, sent messages, deleted items, photos and a contact list.
Riley also took information from Maldonado's
phone, which can be seen which can be seen on a bedside nightstand in one of the crime scene photos. He testified there were no phone calls, texts, photos or any exchange of information between Maldonados and Escobar's phones.
Marvin Gilley, another Austin police tech specialist, also testified Friday. He had examined the phone of Angelica Escobar, Areli’s sister. Gilley said he extracted similar information from Angelica’s phone as Riley did from Lopez’s phone. Also, Robby Godeaux, another tech detective, said he examined Escobar's cell phone.
Lopez, who now has a married name of Zoe Moreno and lives in Pflugerville, was called to testify. She was Escobar’s girlfriend at the time of Maldonado’s murder.
Lopez said she and Escobar began a romantic relationship at the end of February 2009 after they were introduced by Escobar’s sister, also a friend of Lopez. Escobar was married with an estranged wife when he began his relationship with Lopez.
Speaking about text messages exchanged with Escobar, Lopez said he had asked her if she was coming over to his house. Lopez told Escobar she had been at the beach all day and was tired and did not want to go out.
Lopez arrived at Escobar’s house at 2:15 a.m. and explained that she went straight to the bathroom to take a shower. Escobar then began talking to her about his problems and said, “He felt like he was at a dead end.”
Lopez said after showering, she and Escobar barely spoke. The other people at the home left, leaving just the two of them alone.
When Lopez told Escobar she wanted to go to bed, he said he would be there in five minutes. Lopez said she could tell Escobar was under the influence of alcohol by the way he was talking.
"He had a different demeanor, he seemed spaced out," Lopez said.
Lopez said she could see Escobar cross from the kitchen to the living room and then heard the front door slam while she was lying in bed. Lopez said she was upset that Escobar would ask her to come to his home and then leave without telling her where he was going. She took her things and left Escobar’s home and went back to her apartment. On the way out she saw Escobar’s car in the parking lot, she said.
Angry with Escobar, she tried to call him on a cell phone as she was driving home.
She testified that there was no answer so she left him a message saying she was upset and he needed to get the priorities straight with his life. She left two more similar messages, but the fourth call was answered.
“I heard a woman screaming and screaming and screaming. Just non-stop screaming," Lopez said.
Lopez said she listened for nearly four minutes and there were no words in the screams that then turned to grunts and moans.
No other voice was heard on the other line and Lopez said she thought Escobar was cheating on her and having sex with another woman.
Wanting someone else to hear what she was hearing, she called Escobar’s sister Nancy. Lopez began to suspect it was possible Areli Escobar was raping someone.
The next day in a conversation with Areli Escobar, he told Zoe Lopez he left to go get his phone charger at his friend’s house. Lopez told him his charger was already at his house.
“I told him I heard screaming. Who was screaming? He said he was watching a war movie," Lopez testified.
A day later, Zoe Lopez saw a news report that a girl was murdered and became suspicious. She checked the Internet for more information and saw the murder happened at a nearby apartment.
Zoe Lopez told her son, Emilio Lopez, she was scared about talking to police about the incident.
“You don’t want to believe that someone you loved could have done something like this," she said.
After detectives met Zoe Lopez at work, she was taken downtown for questioning. There she cooperated with officers giving them statements, access to her phone and other information.
Zoe Lopez had also contacted Crime Stoppers and left an anonymous tip that she might have information about a suspect.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Steve Brittain tried to reveal possible friction between Areli Escobar and Zoe Lopez and introduced text messages that Lopez sent to a friend in which she plans to lie to Escobar about going to the beach.
In later texts sent to a friend, Lopez does not use the word “screaming” when talking about what she heard in the phone call.
One of the texts sent from Lopez to her son reads “OMG, I think Areli raped someone.”
When Brittain asked if there was anything else she had learned that led her to believe that, Lopez responded by saying she could not remember.
Brittain got Lopez to admit she was angry when sending the texts.
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