Monday, February 05, 2001

Trial in fatal stabbing opens today

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — The murder trial of Martin Delores Rivera-Carrillo, who is charged with stabbing a woman to death in July, is scheduled to begin today in Butler County Common Pleas Court.

        Prosecutors say they're unsure whether the defendant, a native of Mexico, is giving his real name.

        Because the defendant has limited knowledge of English, a Spanish-language in terpreter will assist in the courtroom, officials said.

        Chris Pagan, Mr. Rivera-Carrillo's court-appointed attorney, acknowledges that his client is an undocumented alien — and hopes jurors will be able to set aside any “hidden biases” related to that.

        Mr. Rivera-Carrillo probably will testify on his own behalf, Mr. Pagan said.

        Much of the prosecutors' case will center on analysis of physical evidence, said David Kash, a Butler County assistant prosecutor. He and fellow assistant prosecutor Brenda Cox have been assigned to the case.

        The trial is expected to last three to four days.

        Without luck, observation and “tight police work,” there might not have been a trial, Mr. Kash said.

        On July 15, a Hamilton police officer noticed a van drive past with its rear door open, revealing a bloody interior. Mr. Rivera-Carrillo was driving that van and was covered with blood that was not his own, police have said.

        Police later found the body of Tracey Jean Roark, 38, behind a trash bin near Pershing Avenue and Seventh Street. Dr. Richard P. Burkhardt says she bled to death from more than 40 stab wounds. He said it was one of the most extreme cases he's handled in almost 21 years as Butler County's coroner.

        “Had that officer not been there and noticed the van, this guy could have driven out of town and the case may never have been solved,” Mr. Kash said. “No evidence at the scene (where the body was found) really indicated who the perpetrator was.”

        “This case isn't a "whodunit,'” said defense attorney Mr. Pagan. “It's a "what happened.'”

        While there's no denying the slaying was brutal, “that doesn't necessarily make it murder,” Mr. Pagan said. “Murder reflects on a state of mind, an intent to kill, and I don't think (prosecutors) have that.”

        Ms. Cox, however, sees the case differently.

        “We believe that the evidence will show that (the defendant's) purpose was to murder our victim, Ms. Roark,” she said. “We don't believe that Ms. Roark provoked this in any way; we believe she is in no way responsible or culpable for what happened to her that day.”

        Wounds on her hands show that Ms. Roark “was obviously struggling, fighting for her life,” Ms. Cox said.


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