Day 2: defendant admits killing Gabriel Cruz but pleads not guilty to murder
Ana Julia Quezada pleaded "not guilty" at the beginning of the second trial session for the death of 8-year-old Gabriel Cruz in March 2018 in Rodalquilar (Almería) but acknowledged, to prosecutor Elena María Fernández's first question, that she did "kill" the boy on February 27, 2018, the same day he disappeared.
The defendant is herself mother of two daughters. She arrived in Spain from the Dominican Republic aged 18, with the help of her sister who, according to Quezada, wanted to get her involved in prostitution. She was married to a man named Miguel Ángel for 16 years.
Judge Alejandra Dodero ruled lawyers could not ask any questions related to the circumstances in which one of her daughters died in Burgos several years ago, "she fell out of a window", said the defendant, because they lack any relevance for the trial of these facts.
Quezada stated "I have always had a good relationship" with her second daughter, Judith, who traveled down from Burgos to help with the search for Gabriel in 2018.
Judith Redondo Quezada (25 years old, Burgos) testified as a witness this morning via video link and asked the court not even to see her mother's face on the screen while answering questions: "the relationship was completely non-existent", she said, although occasionally they talked by phone or WhatsApp "when [the defendant] had problems with her partners".
"The relationship has always been distant."
While she was still living in Burgos, her mother worked at the butcher's shop in the neighbourhood and, when her daughter turned 18, her father settled in to the family home. Ms. Redondo was not told years later that her mother had moved to Almería.
Married to a second husband, Sergio M. García, she moved south but by March 2018, Quezada and Sergio had divorced and the defendant had met Ángel Cruz, Gabriel's father, "on New Year's Eve, 2016". They began a relationship and moved in together "in September 2017, in Vicar (Almería)".
She met Gabriel, "a very polite child", "a week" after meeting Mr. Cruz. He enjoyed a custody regime with his son on alternate weekends, Tuesdays and Thursdays. She looked after the child on visit days because his father worked and it was normal for her to have access to the her partner's mother's house in Las Hortichuelas (Almería). They knew each other well enough for her to come and go as she pleased.
Quezada said she did not know the mother, Patricia Ramírez, very much except for some sporadic contact but the parents got along well, with good communication. Once, Gabriel had told her that she had "a really ugly nose".
Asked if there had been any moments of tension with Mrs. Ramírez, Quezada said angrily: "That's a lie! I haven't had any problems with Patricia".
The prosecutor asked the court to reproduce the recording of a telephone conversation that took place on March 5 at 4:09 p.m., and at the 6:30 minute mark of the call, the jury heard the defendant clearly stating the following description of Gabriel's mother: "She is a bitch and many people hate her, she is bad". Quezada began to sob at that moment, unconsolably.
Among the many images shown to the court today, the Prosecutor's Office wanted to show the jury an image of the defendant's laptop desktop, with a picture of her dog and a link to a YouTube video about "the 10 deadliest venomous plants in the world" .
Francisco Torres, for the private prosecution brought by the parents, asked the court if she had not tried to poison the child on two previous occasions, one month before the crime. A first witness today supported that theory.
Francisco Manuel Martínez Murcia (54, clinical psychologist), who treated Mrs. Ramírez in the previous months, told the court there were already problems regarding Gabriel's relationship—he was "an especially correct child […] especially sensitive […] with spectacular nobility"—and Ana Julia Quezada.
The mother began to describe changes in the child's behaviour due to her father's new relationship. Mr. Martínez described "the anguish" or "fear" of the child, who "felt that his father no longer paid so much attention to him", feelings that he told his mother, grandmother and a female psychologist about.
On February 22, 2018, just five days before the crime, the psychologist recommended Mr. Cruz not leave Gabriel alone.
Mr. Martínez also stated there were indeed two episodes on two previous Tuesdays, about a month and a half before the crime, when the defendant was alone with the child and the father working: Gabriel suffered "severe" abdominal pains and vomiting.
When asked about this by her defence counsel, Esteban Hernández Thiel, Quezada explained she had been taking care of the child for a year without giving him anything poisonous and that he had never fallen ill during that period, except for some episode of diarrhea.
The video of the plants was because her hobby was plants and gardening, she said. "It's the first time I've heard of something like that", said her daughter Judith, who learned about what had happened when her mum called her the night Gabriel disappeared. She never told her what she had done to the child. "I always did things from the heart", said Ms. Redondo, sobbing: "always in good faith".
On February 27, 2018, the day of the crime, the defendant and Gabriel's grandmother went shopping in Campohermoso and left the child at a cousins' house. Mr. Cruz left to work and, after finishing shopping, the two ladies "picked up Gabriel to go for lunch".
The two female cousins did not want to come with them, because one of them was "not feeling well" but Quezada stated she proposed both Gabriel and his grandmother go to the house in Rodalquilar, which she had been painting with Mr. Cruz for several days, while Gabriel stayed at his grandmother's house or played with his cousins.
"Did he only go to Rodalquilar with you on the 27th?", the prosecutor asked.
"Yes", Quezada admitted. That morning, the boy dressed alone, asking his granny where his clothes were. After lunch of "pasta with tomato sauce and tuna", he said "I'm going to play with friends" and his grandmother told him to wait 10 minutes so his cousins could finish eating.
"I saw the boy for the last time at the gate" she said: "I was at the door of the house". She denied calling his father to ask him to disable the alarm on the house in Rodalquilar with an application on his mobile phone. She waited a few minutes, "I don't remember exactly", "I grabbed a can of soda, grabbed some things" and left in her car.
She saw Gabriel "among some bushes" and asked him what he was doing there. The boy replied that "he was waiting around for his cousins to eat lunch", just as his grandmother had indicated. The defendant asked if he wanted to go with her to paint on the property in Rodalquilar and the boy said yes.
In the car on the way to the property, Gabriel asked Quezada: "Ana, you will bring me back later, won't you?".
When they arrived, Gabriel got out of the car and she disabled the alarm. When she mentioned "the room in the middle" during her description of events, she began to cry, her voice broken.
Quezada refused to answer questions from the private prosecution, but Mr. Torres asked the court, for the record, when she had taken the shovel and axe from the grandmother's house to Rodalquilar and if the boy himself helped her to take the tools out of the car.
"I did not take any tools to Rodalquilar", she replied to Mr. Hernández Thiel: "everything was there".
According to her version, at the house, the boy grabbed the axe and she told him to put it down because "you can hurt yourself". The boy told her "you are ugly, you have an ugly nose". As the prosecutor insisted, Quezada responded with greater frustration, raising her tone and sobbing more: "I didn't want to hurt the boy! I just wanted him to shut up. I didn't want to kill the boy!".
"Ugly woman! Black woman! You have an ugly nose, don't tell me what to do!" were Gabriel's last words, according to the defendant. She did not recall if she took the axe off him, if he kicked and struggled, if she shoved him against the floor or the wall, or if she jumped on top of the child: "they were very fast moments, I was nervous."
She did admit she put "my right hand on his mouth and nose […] to shut him up" but did not recall what she did with her left hand.
Mr. Torres asked the court how the defendant would then explain the brain haemorrhage and bruising.
She realised he was no longer breathing, "when I let go". "I was paralysed at that time. I touched the child and saw he was not breathing. I didn't know what to do". She went in and out of the house several times, "to get cigarettes", and decided to dig a hole in the garden with a shovel.
An officer of the court brought that shovel, seized by the Civil Guard, out before the defendant and the jury and Quezada acknowledged that "I think that is the shovel". She did not recognise another blue and grey instrument and, when the axe was brought in front of her, said "I think it was a little redder" but that it was the same size and materials.
After killing him, she took off Gabriel's clothes, except his underwear, "but I don't know why", and took him by the arms to take him outside, "I didn't take him out carefully […] I dragged him". She went back for the axe, "in the room" and acknowledged she tried to cut off his arm at the wrist "because one of Gabriel's little hands was sticking out".
As she described the moment she tried to cut off his arm, the defendant, sitting before the judge, gestured with her own right hand. Mr. Torres asked if the attempt to sever his arm was "the start of trying to dismember him", pointing out again that Quezada had worked in a butcher's shop.
After she had buried the boy, she smoked a cigarette, went back to the room for the clothes, put them in her backpack and started to paint: "Yes, yes, I didn't know what to do". She did not call the emergency services, "I couldn't, I couldn't call anyone", she confessed, crying again, "I just thought I had taken a child's life […] how am I going to tell Ángel?".
"It didn't occur to me to flee", she explained to a question from Mr. Hernández Thiel.
At about 6:30 pm, it was Gabriel's father who called her to tell her that the grandmother did not know where the boy was and she should return to the house to help. The defendant, however, first went to the house of a friend, Juan Carlos Rodriguez, who testified this afternoon.
She appeared at around 5:30 p.m., according to the witness, to announce that "the child was missing".
During the days the search lasted, the defendant managed to "lose" the same mobile phone two days in a row. She blamed this on the "four or five pills a day" she was taking "to relieve my conscience": "I lost the phones because I was high on Diazapan".
Her daughter Judith explained she did not notice any strange behaviour in her mother over that period, although her mood changed. She supported and helped Angel all the time, with kisses and hugs.
The defendant insisted her daughter call the psychologist, Mr. Martínez, to criticise the character of her ex-husband, Sergio M. Garcia. The daughter had no relationship with that gentleman and felt used.
Elisabeth Requena (42) asked for a screen to be placed between her and the defendant and testified that Quezada lost her mobile phone on March 2 during the search, but in a somewhat strange manner.
Mrs. Requena found it at shoulder height, not on the floor, and, after returning it, the defendant immediately put it on the table without showing any interest in any possible missed calls or clues about Gabriel's whereabouts.
During a walk in that period, Quezada "led us up past the front of Sergio's house": her ex-husband, who lived about 800 meters from the place where the white t-shirt was found.
"She acted as if she didn't know me", said Mr. Garcia about the meeting with the defendant, Mr. Cruz and Mrs. Requena.
The defendant acknowledged that an image of a white T-shirt shown to the court belonged to Gabriel, that she had taken it from the grandmother's house, had placed it in some bushes, a cane field, near her ex-husband's house, and knew her ex-husband had a white van.
Asked by the prosecutor why she had placed the t-shirt there, and why she had called Angel to tell him she had found it, Quezada replied: "I wanted to be caught because I couldn't take it anymore, with my own words".
Mrs. Fernández asked the court to accept a recording from the investigation, which the judge allowed, because the defendant was contradicting herself. She had previously stated that he had placed the t-shirt there because "she wanted to give the father hope". The prosecutor said that in the 18 months since the crime, this was the first time Quezada had mentioned such an explanation.
She denied she tried to cover the hole where the boy was buried over the following days, "I did not want Gabriel's body to be well hidden". Knowing Gabriel was there dead, she even took her own daughter, Judith, and a relative of Mr. Cruz, Sara Fernández Reyes (31), to the property in Rodalquilar.
"She told me she wanted to go to the house", said her daughter: "let's go there, I feel peace there". There was wood and some chairs stacked on the floor, "next to the swimming pool, lots of it". Her mother "stayed by the pool", smoked a cigarette and said she was going to remove some more boards [from the cover of the swimming pool].
"She said we should go out to Rodalquilar for a walk", said Mrs. Fernández Reyes, and when there "she smoked some cigarettes". Part of the wood from the swimming pool cover had already been removed and Quezada encouraged them to stack more wood over the same place where there was already a pile. Gabriel's body was buried below.
"Ana always wanted to go to Rodalquilar", she stated.
On March 9, during the support rally, Quezada told Mr. Martínez, the psychologist, that "the child has been killed, it's been too many days now".
She decided to try to move the body, "to a garage", on Sunday, March 11, "I took my dog, I told Ángel that I'm leaving, and I left". She dug Gabriel up, "I removed the wood and everything else", took a red and white towel for her dog out of the car— "[the dog] throws off a lot of hair"—and used it to wrap the boy's body and put it in the trunk of the car.
"I decided to go to the farm and take Gabriel's body out", she said.
She did not recall having whispered on a Civil Guard recording of her mumbling in her car that morning. The audio was played in court but the jurors had to approach the television speaker to hear it properly. All nodded to confirm that the defendant had said those words.
The court was shown a sequence of images showing Quezada arriving at the property in Rodalquilar on March 11, 2018 in her car, the pile of wood, the defendant taking out a red and white towel—which has also shown physically to the court—from her vehicle, her bending down to pick up Gabriel's body with the towel, and her carrying the body to put it in her car.
The defendant admitted it was her was in all of the images.
And for the second time today, the prosecutor was stunned by Quezada's explanation of what her plan had been that day: to go to the house in Vicar with her dog, write two letters—one to Mr. Cruz and one to her daughter, Judith—and to commit suicide with the pills she had with her. Once again, the prosecutor had not heard of such a story during the 18 months of investigation and trial preparation.
"Forgive me, Angel", the defendant began to say at one point, sobbing. The judge cut her off immediately: "Listen to what they are going to ask you!". Later, she began to apologise "to Ángel" and the family but the judge cut her off again: "Ana Julia, return to your seat!"
"I don't feel like it or want to" talk to [my] mother, said her daughter, Ms. Redondo.
Ana Julia Quezada (Dominican Republic, 1974) stands accused of murder, in relation to the death of 8-year old Gabriel Cruz in March 2018, two counts of psychological abuse in relation to the boy’s parents, Patricia Ramírez and Ángel Cruz, and one count of a crime against moral integrity, in relation to the father.
She confirmed the statements she made to the Civil Guard and the description of a visit to the scene of the crime with officers.
Gabriel's mother arrived at the court building minutes before 3:30 p.m., accompanied by Mr. Martinez, who had testified in the morning as a witness. She began to testify at about 4:00 pm, for around 35 minutes, behind closed doors.
This afternoon Mr. Cruz, the grandmother and a young cousin all testified behind closed doors.
The trial continues tomorrow morning at the Provincial Court of Almería. The 9-person jury—seven women and two men—is presided over by judge Alejandra Dodero. The Prosecutor’s Office is seeking a whole-life sentence.