Archive for Thursday, June 29, 2006

Espinales to stand trial for local shooting

June 29, 2006

A mixture of alcohol, jealousy, anger and fisticuffs proved deadly inside a Baldwin City home during the early-morning hours of March 4, according to testimony Tuesday in Douglas County District Court.

His face bloodied after being struck by Alvin Sanchez, Hinndley K. Espinales left the house at 109 Hillside Drive and retrieved a handgun from his truck. He then returned and shot Sanchez three times, witnesses testified, and the final shot came as he stood over Sanchez, who was then lying on the kitchen floor.

"He shot twice. Then he walked over and shot again," Sanchez's mother-in-law Lisa Wellington said when she testified before Judge Jack Murphy.

Espinales' father, Rufino Espinales, testifying with help from a Spanish interpreter, said he wrapped his arms around his son from behind while Wellington took the gun from Hinndley Espinales' hand and placed it on the counter.

After several hours of testimony, Murphy ruled there was enough evidence to try Hinndley Espinales, 25, on a charge of first-degree murder in Sanchez's death. Murphy set an Oct. 30 trial date after the accused waived his right to a speedy trial.

Hinndley Espinales entered a plea of not guilty. His attorneys, Albert Freeman, a family friend from Flagstaff, Ariz., and Jacqueline Reid-Peterson, of Topeka, declined to say how they would handle the defense. They said they still were reviewing information in the case.

Earlier, under questioning by Dist. Atty. Charles Branson, Rufino Espinales said he followed his son back out to the truck after the shooting.

"I asked him, 'What have you done?'" Rufino Espinales said. "He said, 'Help me, help me.' I said, 'All I can do is call the police.'"

But police already were being called by Alvin Sanchez's wife, Jamelia Sanchez. Baldwin Police Sgt. Gregg Schiffelbein was one of the first officers to arrive. He described a scene of chaos at the house, where a few relatives and friends had spent the night drinking beer while celebrating Rufino Espinales' birthday.

"There was a lot of screaming, a lot of yelling and people running," Schiffelbein said, noting he found Alvin Sanchez on the kitchen floor but still breathing.

Sanchez was flown to University of Kansas Hospital, Kansas City, Kan., where he later died.

Hinndley Espinales fled the area and was caught a few hours later by Oklahoma state troopers on Interstate 35 near Sulphur, Okla.

About a week before the shooting, family members were at a bar when Alvin Sanchez acted as if he were jealous and angered because of the way Hinndley Espinales was dancing with his wife, Jamelia Sanchez, according to testimony by Wellington and Rufino Espinales.

A week later, after drinking beer at the birthday party and at a Baldwin bar called the Salt Mine, the celebrants returned to the Hillside Drive house. Shortly before the shooting, Alvin Sanchez confronted Hinndley Espinales. Rufino said he saw Hinndley Espinales with blood on his face before going out to the truck where he got the gun.

Hinndley Espinales and Jamelia Sanchez are stepbrother and stepsister. Jamelia is Wellington's daughter. One of the shots that struck Alvin Sanchez entered the top of his head and came out the back of his neck, Douglas County Coroner Dr. Erik Mitchell said. Another shot struck Sanchez in the left arm and exited through the back. A third passed between Sanchez's legs, injuring the inside of both, Mitchell said.

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