Day 4: defendant's story during crime scene inspection in 2018 consistent with her version of events during trial

Dispatch: Murder squad captain confirms Quezada "always" maintained it was an accidental death. Judicial Police captain confirms the Civil Guard did not suspect homicide in the days before the body appeared.
By Matthew Bennett
Sep 12, 2019, 8:52 pm

In the fourth session of the murder trial for the death of Gabriel Cruz, the court saw the complete video of the crime-scene reconstruction of events that took place on March 13, 2018 with the defendant in the presence of the investigating judge, the prosecutor, Elena María Martínez, and the defendant's lawyer.

The court also heard testimony from the Civil Guard officer who took a sequence of photos two days earlier, on March 11, showing Ana Julia Quezada digging up the body of the child and putting it in her car.

Asked at the beginning of the reconstruction by the judge if she wished to collaborate, the defendant replied: "Of course I do".

Following the instructions of the judge, Rafael Serrano, she took him to the room where the crime occurred, to the area immediately outside the door of the room where she buried the body, and to the kitchen where she smoked between two and four cigarettes after realising he was dead.

Quezada sobbed constantly during the reconstruction, filled with polite questions from the investigating judge.

The version she gave in March 2018 is very consistent with the version she has told the court this week. After arriving at the property and entering the house to open the windows, she saw Gabriel was holding an axe in his hands and insulted her, "black woman, what an ugly nose you have".

In a room in the house, she covered Gabriel's mouth—as she testified in in court on Tuesday—"so he wouldn't shout". She recalled her words to the boy in front of the investigating judge: "Don't shout! Don't shout! Don't shout!". She did not remember if he had dropped the axe or how she had placed her other hand on the boy's body, despite Judge Serrano's precise gestures to try to jog her memory.

She said that "the child falls to the ground", "he was no longer breathing". She repeatedly denied to the judge—as she has done during this trial—that she struck Gabriel against the wall or with any part of the axe: "No blows, I did not hit the child".

She went into the kitchen and smoked the cigarettes. During the reconstruction in that room of the house in Rodalquilar, the judge asked her what she was thinking at that moment and she replied "about Ángel" and how she was going to tell him. She collapsed, sobbing in front of Judge Serrano when she recalled her thoughts that day, and this morning in court she looked at the floor, crying, when she saw the video of that moment.

A Civil Guard officer who works with the Dog Support Unit told the court that one of his dogs, apart from noting where Gabriel was buried and the room where he was killed, signalled the mop and bucket in the kitchen.

Quezada dug the hole in the small area between the room and the swimming pool, in front of the room door. She undressed Gabriel, except his underwear, and took him outside by the arms. She admitted she had used the axe not to hit him but because "with one hand I couldn't finish" putting him in the hole. She said during the reconstruction that "I stopped [using the axe] because it felt very strange".

She put the clothes she had taken off him into her backpack.

The court again saw the aerial photo of the property, taken by a Civil Guard drone. The pile of wood next to the swimming pool that covered the hole containing the child was perfectly visible. The tools were not.

A Major in the Civil Guard Judicial Police in Madrid testified that "it was very likely he was not missing", from the first days of the investigation, but officers suspected kidnapping, not homicide, this despite the fact that "it is not very often we have brought down so many resources" to help on a case.

They cross-referenced license plates and phone numbers to try to find information from people who had passed through the area at key times but "this was never looked at as a homicide", "there was nothing" that suggested a killing or that he was dead.

The Major confirmed that "[the defendant] encouraged the family to increase the reward money".

The court saw the photos taken at the spot where the white t-shirt appeared, near the house of Quezada's ex-husband, and others taken in Retamar where Gabriel's clothes were found lying in a green glass skip in front of the Bar el Toyo 1, as well as the testimony of the officers who took both sequences of images.

On March 11, Quezada returned to Rodalquilar to dig Gabriel up. "She is unable to open the house" at first, said one of the Civil Guard officers who took the sequence of photos—from a hill 400 meters away from the house—that show the defendant taking the child out: "she goes for a walk with a dog" and has a three-minute phone conversation.

"She starts handling a series of pieces of wood" next to the swimming pool. She told the investigating judge during the crime-scene reconstruction that she had used the rake to remove the earth that covered the corpse.

She took the red towel from the car and wrapped Gabriel, "but not quite fully", she told the judge, and carried him a few meters to the car. "She picks him up as if cradling him", said the officer, but "it is hard for her to lift his body" and "his body falls".

The court also saw the color photo of the defendant carrying Gabriel's body in her hands again. In the image, he appears to have slipped down a little because of the difficulty of carrying him, compared to that initial posture. "It was quite hard for her" to put the body in the car, the officer's partner testified: "just her with a body [that weighs] 24 kilos…".

The Lieutenant in charge of the investigation testified for a second time—as an expert witness this morning—and the jurors again approached the speakers to hear phrases the defendant said in the car at that moment: "Now to take this away from here […] calm down, Ana, you are not going to jail".

She followed a "totally illogical" route, in the words of an officer who followed her to Vicar, where she was intercepted and arrested. Gabriel's body was in the boot of her car, "full of sand". She "had sand on her hands".

"She began to say 'Ángel, I love you so much, I love Gabriel, my dog is inside'", in the words of a Civil Guard investigative officer.

At the house in Vicar, there was a prescription in the name of Ángel Cruz. Another Lieutenant did not remember when asked by Mr. Hernández Thiel for defense if any medicines were found inside the house. There was a small amount of cocaine. "Was it Ángel's?", Mr. Hernández Thiel asked. "It was a small amount in a private home". replied the officer: "not an offence".

"No medicines were seized" at the house in Vicar, a Civil Guard officer who took part in the search confirmed. Another officer drove the defendant's vehicle, with Gabriel's body in the boot, to Almería Civil Guard headquarters to move it out of the way of the crowd that had begun to gather in the street where the arrest took place.

The subsequent account Quezada gave to the Judicial Police Major was consistent with what she has stated in court: the boy appeared with the axe, she covered his mouth and nose, there is no certainty about what she did with her other hand, she dug a "small" hole next to the pool, there was a dark blue and grey rake and the axe, which the officer recognised before the court.

He was not able to certify the tools were not at the property beforehand, or if they were neatly arranged as Mr. Cruz's brother testified yesterday: "13 days later they were not lined up". They were there when the Major saw them but that was after the defendant was arrested.

Two officers confirmed the axe was found not next to the pool but in a yard behind the house "as if it were hidden", in the words of one officer.

A Civil Guard murder squad Captain told the court that "it is true that from the outset she expresses her will to make a statement". She "always" maintained it had been an accidental death, "she never acknowledges that there was a malicious or premeditated act".

The same officer confirmed to Mr. Hernández Thiel for the defence that the presence of the tools did not seem strange to Gabriel's relatives during the days the search lasted. Asked again by the judge to clarify the difference between something seeming strange to his men and something seeming strange to the family, the Captain replied, referring to the family: "they don't say it is strange at any point".

"I have no record of her not wanting to make statements at any time", he added. The defendant's explanation was that "she ends up suffocating him accidentally".

Mr. Hernández Thiel renounced questions for several witnesses when the judge did not accept a request to change the order of lawyers asking questions, creating a situation of defencelessness for his client in his opinion.

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.

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