Murder charges in deaths of 2 found in Mass. trash

AP News
Posted: Mar 02, 2011 8:55 PM
Murder charges in deaths of 2 found in Mass. trash

An Ecuadorean man who fled the United States after the bodies of a mother and her toddler son were dumped in a trash bin near the home they shared has been linked to their murders by his fingerprints, clothing, jewelry and a sledgehammer found with the remains and human blood in his bedroom, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

Plymouth District Attorney Timothy Cruz said he has filed murder charges against Luis Augustin Guaman. He said he has asked the government of Ecuador to return Guaman, who was arrested there on other charges.

Guaman, who also goes by the names Luis Agustin Guaman Cela, Antonio Castro and Segundo Castro, was in custody Wednesday and couldn't be reached for comment.

The bodies of 25-year-old Ecuadorean immigrant Maria Avelina Palaguachi-Cela and her 2-year-old son, Brian Palaguachi, were found last month near the apartment building where they lived with Guaman and others in Brockton, a city of about 100,000 residents just south of Boston.

Guaman was one of the last people seen with the victims before they were found dead Feb. 13. The victims were killed by blows to their heads. Police found the mother's body stuffed in a duffel bag in the trash container after receiving an anonymous tip. The boy's body was found near hers.

The mother and son were killed near the trash bin, authorities said.

"Evidence linking Guaman included the following: Guaman's fingerprints had been matched to fingerprints found on the bags in which the victims' bodies were disposed," Cruz said.

He said items found in the trash bin with the victims' bodies have been identified as belonging to Guaman, including blood-stained clothing and blood-stained sneakers.

"Guaman was observed wearing the sneakers on the day before the victims were last seen alive," he said.

Inside the sneakers were two rings identified as belonging to Guaman, Cruz said. The blood on the clothing and the sneakers has been determined to be human blood, and it's believed to belong to the victims, he said.

A sledgehammer found in the trash bin also tested positive for human blood, and human blood was found on the nightstand in Guaman's bedroom, Cruz said.

Witnesses told investigators that Guaman took his belongings and left the apartment building shortly before the bodies were discovered. Investigators believe he bought a ticket for a flight to Ecuador shortly after that.

Prosecutors say they obtained a murder arrest warrant Feb. 18 and the FBI secured an Interpol warrant Tuesday. The Interpol warrant was immediately forwarded to Ecuadorean officials, Cruz said.

The U.S. has an extradition treaty with Ecuador dating as far back as 1872. But the Department of State says on its website that the agreement "remains in serious need of updating" and that Ecuador's constitution bans the extradition of its citizens.

Still, Cruz is pressing for Guaman's extradition to face murder charges in Massachusetts.

"This case is not about competing legal systems, nor is it about international politics. It is about a little boy and his mother," he said.

The legal jurisdiction, witnesses, physical evidence and evidence analysis experts are in the United States, he said.

"This is a heart-wrenching case that has shocked communities both here and in Ecuador," Cruz said. "I am calling on the United States and the Ecuadorian governments to work with us, and to work together, to return Luis Guaman to Brockton so that justice can be served for Maria and Brian."

Guaman has a violent criminal history in the United States under the three aliases authorities are aware of. This includes a pending warrant out of Milford for a 2007 assault and battery and two felony warrants out of New York for kidnapping with malice and assault, prosecutors have said.

Guaman also has a pending case in Brockton for assault with a dangerous weapon, authorities said.