Day 3: why did the Civil Guard not search the property in Rodalquilar earlier?
Did Ana Julia Quezada kill Gabriel Cruz with deviance and in a premeditated manner, as the public prosecutor and the private prosecution want to show, seeking a conviction for murder, or did she kill him involuntarily after trying to silence him at the Rodalquilar property, as her defence maintains? Why could the Civil Guard not locate the boy before, if the defendant aroused so many suspicions?
The house in question is owned by Francisco Cruz Sicilia (47 years old, Ángel's brother, Gabriel's uncle and his cousin Mabel's father, she testified behind closed doors yesterday) and until February 2018 it was rented out. DNA remains from one of the tenants were found, but he was ruled out as a suspect during the investigation.
The afternoon Gabriel disappeared, Mr. Cruz Sicilia was working in Almería, his wife in Málaga and his two daughters, Gabriel's cousins, were at home in Campohermoso. The grandmother and Ana Julia Quezada left Gabriel there while they went shopping. According to their father, it was impossible for the girls to agree to go for lunch at Las Hortichuelas—as the defendant has suggested—because one of them was ill and one sister was not going to leave the other alone.
A Civil Guard Staff Sergeant who was the connection with the family during the search for Gabriel, with "direct, close and daily" contact with everyone, told the court on this third day of the trial that after the child's disappearance on Tuesday, February 27 after lunch, the grandmother "was absolutely traumatised […] she couldn't put words together".
Asked why they had not searched the Rodalquilar property better from day one—given the presence of the defendant on that property over the hours when Gabriel disappeared—the head of the Civil Guard Judicial Police in Almería, a Captain, told the court that "at first glance, there is nothing to indicate that there has been a violent event", either there or at the grandmother's house in Las Hortichuelas: "there were no traces of blood, there was nothing".
"We were looking for a living child", said the Lieutenant in charge of the investigation: "The house in Las Hortichuelas was not sealed off either".
Mr. Cruz Sicilia and his wife spent two nights sleeping at the house in Rodalquilar while taking part in the search for their nephew, unaware that he was already buried between the building and the swimming pool. At about eight o'clock on the morning of February 28, they made coffee for breakfast before continuing with the search and Mr. Cruz Sicilia went outside to the pool area: he saw nothing strange, nor did he notice the wood stacked on the ground.
It only seemed remarkable to him to see an axe, a shovel and a small rake "very well organised" on the ground (next to where Gabriel was buried), "like pens on a table".
"These tools are not mine," he thought. The shovel—which an officer of the court brought out to show him—was from another farmhouse, possibly, that the family had sold, and it had been at his mother's house in Las Hortichuelas. He also physically recognised the axe before the court: "in the house at Rodalquilar, there was no axe". The small rake was there. The private prosecution is attempting to demonstrate that the defendant acted in a premeditated manner by taking the tools to the crime scene, where they had not been previously.
"They were garden elements in a garden area", said the Lieutenant when asked if they seemed relevant during a first light inspection of the property, which the Civil Guard would not step back on to until March 11, when they photographed the defendant taking Gabriel's body out of the small hole where she had buried him.
During the days the search took place, Quezada took on a prominent role in communicating between the Civil Guard and Ángel Cruz, Gabriel's father, according to the testimony of both the Lieutenant and the Staff Sergeant. At first, his mother, Patricia Ramírez, expressed no doubts to the Civil Guard about the defendant, according to the testimony of the head of the Judicial Police.
On March 2, during one of the searches, the defendant met her ex-husband, Sergio M. García, and pointed out to the Staff Sergeant that he owned a white van, "sowing doubts about that gentleman". She had already mentioned him on February 28: "I have been a direct witness of how Ana Julia tried to direct the investigation towards Sergio".
"Ángel was obsessed with the white van", he said. Both Gabriel's father and Elisabeth Requena, who testified yesterday, told the Civil Guard that the defendant had taken them to Sergio's house.
That same day, Quezda "lost" her mobile phone—although it was located and returned to its owner—and "on the 3rd, in the morning, she loses it again", said the Lieutenant, who added that "if she didn't go every day to the property in Rodalquilar, she went on 98% of the days". He said she felt "peace" there. "Her visits lasted about 10 minutes".
Also that Saturday, March 3, "strangely", in the words of the Captain in charge of the Judicial Police, the white t-shirt appeared and from that moment on police "prioritised" the defendant in the investigation.
A local police officer, a personal friend of Gabriel's parents, was in charge of that search area that day, and told the court he met Mr. Cruz, who explained that the t-shirt had appeared after the defendant found it: "I'm surprised because I had already been there", he said. It was an area "where she walked the dogs with her ex-partner".
Mr. Cruz told the officer that the t-shirt was dry, even though it had rained that day. Mr. Hernández Thiel, for the defence, asked him if he immediately suspected the defendant. "Yes", he replied.
The Staff Sergeant ratified the incident with the t-shirt: Mr. Cruz called to tell him that "Ana has found a t-shirt that belongs to Gabriel […] she says it smells like him". Mr. M. García's house was about "700m or 1 kilometre" away from the spot where the garment was found.
Over that period, "she answered the phone, asked what we knew about the investigation", according to the Sergeant. It was difficult for the Civil Guard to follow Quezada "because she would leave and three cars of journalists would leave behind her", said the Lieutenant.
On March 5, Mr. Cruz Sicilia and his wife returned to the house at Rodalquilar—again unaware their nephew was already buried there—and saw the defendant smoking a cigarette, "very, very nervous", "she was very restless". Gabriel's uncle could not remember if there were more pieces of wood on the floor, "the whole [wooden] cover [of the outdoor pool] was there".
On the 11th, the defendant "removes a corpse from the ground and puts it in the boot [of her car]", said the head of the Judicial Police in Almería. "We observe her taking something out that morphologically resembles a body", said the Lieutenant: "he was buried in a very small grave".
Until that day, the police did not know or suspect that Gabriel was there.
They listened on the audio recording of the microphone that they had planted in Quezada's car that she said "they want a fish, don't they? I'm going to give them a fish my balls". She also said to herself: "Calm down, Ana, you're not going to jail".
She followed a "totally erratic" route in her car for about an hour until she reached the town of Vicar (Almería), where the order was given to intervene and arrest her, as she was about to park in a garage. The defendant said that the bulge and the towel in the boot of the car were nothing, just the dog.
"We were looking for a living child", said the Lieutenant. Asked by the private prosecution why they had not arrested the defendant at the property in Rodalquilar, the officer replied: "we wanted to know if there was anyone else" involved in the crime.
In her handbag, there were 10 or 12 pills in two plastic packs. The defendant has alleged during the trial that she intended to commit suicide that day but such a small amount of pills would be unlikely to achieve that goal. Officers also found a small amount of cocaine in the house in Vicar.
The Civil Guard in Almeria contacted colleagues in Burgos to inquire about "her previous way of life" or Quezada's "possible motivations". The head of the Judicial Police in that city testified via video link that the people who knew her there had stated that she was a "cold, calculating and absolutely manipulative" woman, cold in private moments, closer in more social ones.
She had filed a complaint to police against the sister of her ex-husband because that lady told her she was a "fucking black woman, go back to your country". The separation from her ex-husband, Miguel Ángel Redondo (the father of Judith Redondo Quezada, who testified via video link yesterday), with whom she was married between 1992 and 2009, came when they had spent the 93,000 euros they had won on the lottery in 2004.
The Captain confirmed to Mr. Hernández Thiel, for the defence, that Mr. Redondo had been convicted of gender-based violence at a time when they were negotiating the alimony the former husband would pay, and that Quezada had worked in a butcher's shop.
All three parties renounced testimony from Mr. Redondo. The judge again warned the lawyers that no questions about the death of the defendant's other daughter in Burgos several years ago would be allowed.
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.
The trial will continue tomorrow at the Provincial Court in 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.
- New reporting trip: Gabriel Cruz murder trial
- Day 1: murder trial for death of Gabriel Cruz begins
- Day 2: defendant admits killing Gabriel but denies murder
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