Archive for Thursday, March 9, 2006

Murder suspect caught

March 9, 2006

A return to Kansas for murder suspect Hinndley Espinales, 25, Gardner is expected this week after he agreed to extradition from Oklahoma where he had been arrested after a fatal shooting in Baldwin City Saturday.

Espinales is accused of shooting Alvin M. Sanchez, a 27-year-old Olathe man, in the head and torso at 2:15 a.m. Saturday at 109 Hillside Drive after an argument at a birthday party turned violent. The party was at the home of Rufino Espinales, the suspect's father.

Espinales and Sanchez had an altercation, but it cooled. However, Espinales left the house and returned with the 9 mm handgun and allegedly shot Sanchez.

A frantic call to 911 by the victim's wife after the shooting brought a wave of emergency vehicles to Hillside, which is straight east of Liston Stadium.

"We received a call at the address of 109 Hillside Drive at approximately 2:18 a.m.," said Police Chief Mike McKenna. "When officers arrived, they found a 27-year-old Hispanic male lying on the floor. He had one shot to the head and one shot to the torso.

"The suspect, a 25-year-old male, fled on foot," said McKenna. "The weapon used was found at the scene."

It was quickly determined who the suspect was and where he might be headed, McKenna said.

"Yes, they are related in some fashion," he said of the victim and the suspect. "I'd rather not go into that too much."

Espinales called his girlfriend and got her car, he said. It was also determined that he was headed toward Oklahoma.

"Later I received information that he was leaving the Oklahoma City area," McKenna said. "We notified the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. He was southbound on I-35 in the vehicle we believed him to be in. He was arrested by an Oklahoma State Trooper and was taken to county jail."

On Monday, District Attorney Charles Branson charged Espinelas with first-degree murder and the warrant was sent to Oklahoma where the suspect was arraigned by Judge Tim Colbert in Murray County District Court in Sulphur, Okla.

Douglas County Sheriff's Deputies will escort Espinales back this week.

Neighborhood nightmare

Most people who reside along Hillside Drive, a fairly new addition in east Baldwin, missed the early morning excitement in their neighborhood. But, many were shocked to wake up Saturday and find crime scene tape in their backyards and around the Espinales home.

"It was amazing, people that lived closest to the event did not hear anything," said Eric Toot, who lives next door. "Other houses further away heard the life flight and then noticed all the emergency vehicles."

"I didn't hear anything and none of the neighbors I talked to did either," said Matt Kirby, who lives on High Street, but only about a block from where the shooting occurred. "It's amazing that I didn't even hear the helicopter land."

The home was known to be the site of numerous parties, Toot said, but nothing like this had happened before. However, the dust has cleared and the neighborhood is as back to normal as possible.

"Fortunately things are back to normal on our street," said Toot, who was raised in Baldwin, is a graduate of Baldwin High School, teaches at Baldwin Junior High School and coaches at Baker University. "There was a lot of traffic for the first two days of people passing by to take a look at the area."

Toot doesn't think the incident in anyway reflects on the Baldwin community.

"I think it was just an unfortunate incident between two people who knew each other," he said. "I would be worried if it was a break in and not a dispute that got out of hand. "Baldwin is just as safe today as it was the day before the incident and is still a great place to live," said Toot. "I don't understand how people relate a family party going bad to Baldwin being unsafe. I live next door and I am not worried or concerned

about my family's safety."

Ambulance response

The wife of the victim of the shooting has raised questions regarding the response time of Douglas County Fire & Medical. She claims it took 45 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.

However, a review of the dispatch records from that morning show it was 23 minutes. The reason it was that long was the ambulance stationed in Baldwin had responded to another call earlier. That meant a second ambulance had to be sent from Lawrence.

An air ambulance landed in Baldwin not long after the ambulance and transported Sanchez to the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan. Sanchez died about 13 hours after the shooting.

Crime scene investigation

As soon as McKenna arrived, he suspected the shooting would evolve into a murder. Because of that, he wanted the crime scene investigation to be very thorough. He discussed that with Douglas County Sheriff Kenny McGovern and the decision was made to seek the first available investigation team.

McKenna was questioned about that at Monday's Baldwin City Council meeting by Mayor Gary Walbridge, who asked why the Johnson County Crime Investigation Unit was used instead of Douglas County investigators.

"This is simply a fact of people not understanding the situation," said McKenna. "I thought this was going to turn into a homicide. I wanted the crime scene diagrammed for use in court. Without doing a scaled diagram, it's impossible to do that.

"I talked to the Douglas County Sheriff, Kenny McGovern," he said. "I asked him if his department had a crime scene investigation team that could diagram it. He said no. I explained to him what I was wanting. I talked to him about the Lawrence crime lab, but we couldn't get them."

The two discussed other possibilities, including the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. But, a possible quicker response might be available elsewhere.

"I told him I'd try Johnson County first and then Olathe," said McKenna. "I could have asked for KBI, but that would have taken a long time, possibly a day or more. I called Johnson County and they said they could be on the way.

"If anyone else tries to add anything else to this, it's because they don't understand," he said.

Wasn't first murder

Some Kansas City area television stations broadcast stories throughout the weekend claiming it was the first murder ever in Baldwin. That's not true.

The last verifiable homicide in Baldwin occurred Jan. 21, 1936 when Mrs. Wiley Hausam and her mother, Mrs. Sarah Kline were killed in fire which was later discovered to be an arson. Kline's son-in-law, Eldon King, who lived in the home with his wife and young daughter, was later convicted of setting the fire to obtain insurance money to start a butcher shop in Ft. Scott.

Several other murders were also reported to the Signal as occurring in the 1930s involving guns, but a review of Baldwin history contained in the Baldwin Public Library couldn't confirm those.

The Signal will continue to update the latest developments in the current murder case on its Web site at www.baldwincity.com as information becomes available.

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