AUSTIN (KXAN) - Areli Escobar was convicted Friday afternoon of capital murder in the killing of 17-year-old Bianca Maldonado in a bloody attack that occured in the victim's home almost exactly two years ago.
The 32-year-old Escobar broke into Maldonado's Decker Lane apartment while she and her year-old son were home alone on May 31, 2009. The baby was injured in the attack but survived.
Maldonado's body 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.
During testimony last week, Maldonado's sister Dania said that she and her mother discovered the grim scene after returning home after delivering newspapers early on the morning of the murder.
Dania said she opened the apartment door on the day of the murder, took tamales they'd bought into the kitchen. She looked into the living room and saw the sofa cushions and walls covered in blood. By then, her mother headed toward a body that was lying on the floor.
Dania said her mom checked the body for a pulse. Bianca's 1-year-old son was face down and unconscious on a rug close to Bianca's feet, Dania testified. She said her mother picked up the child and handed him to her.
Closing arguments in the trial began at 10:30 a.m. and the case was in the hands of the jury by the afternoon.
Defense attorney Steve Brittain began his closing argument -- instructed by the judge to be only an hour -- by telling the jury not to be intimidated.
Travis County Assistant District Attorney Allison Wetzel began her closing statement by showing a PowerPoint presentation of the crime scene, painting a picture of how the crime happened.
She said Maldonado was up nursing her baby and likely very sleepy at that time of night when she opened the door after hearing a knock, likely thinking it was her mother returning home.
"She didn't know when she opened the door that she had about 10 more minutes to live," said Wetzel.
Details of the blood and other items at the crime scene were once again shown to the jury.
"She was fighting like hell to keep this man from killing her," said Wetzel.
In Brittain's closing arguments, he tried to discredit Escobar girlfriend's testimony and the window of time that the murder happened.
"We do not operate on coincidence in our community," said Brittain. "It is beyond a reasonable doubt. That is standard."
Brittain continued to try to discredit DNA evidence, mentioning past cases where defendants were sentenced to prison only to be exonerated due to fualty DNA practices.
Brittain's objections -- including some for photographic exhibits, certain DNA evidence, and the manner in which Escobar was detained -- were all denied Friday morning before the jury was sent on its first break of the day. He rested his case without calling a single witness.
The state rested its case on Thursday after testimony from Travis County Medical Examiner David Dolinak, where graphic autopsy pictures were shown to the jury.
According to police reports from shortly after the murder, Escobar asked his girlfriend if she would spend the night with him at his apartment at Huntington Meadows. The girlfriend got there around 2:30 a.m., showered, and went to bed, according to the arrest affidavit.
Police also said that when the girlfriend woke up when she heard the door shut around 4 a.m. and realized that Escobar had left the apartment. She got up to leave and found his Lincoln Navigator in the parkinglot and figured out that he'd left the apartment on foot.
She started calling his cell phone. On the fourth call, Escobar's phone picked up - and the girlfriend heard a woman screaming. For the next 10 minutes, she heard what she later described as the sound of a woman being raped.
An hour later, the girlfriend sent a text to Escobar's sister, saying that she heard him having sex with another woman. The sister responded that her brother had come home to "change clothes because he had fought and had a bloody shirt." She also told the girlfriend that "he could not come home because someone might be looking for him."
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