Jurors began deliberating Wednesday on whether a Riverhead man killed a Flanders woman found strangled and half naked behind a parking lot, after first hearing attorneys argue to them about the strength of the case.
Guillermo Alvarado Ajcuc, 23, is on trial, charged with second-degree murder, before Suffolk County Court Judge John Toomey Jr. He is accused of strangling Mirian Yohanna Garcia Mansilla, 29, two years ago in Riverhead after she was escorted from El Sabor Latino, a bar, because she was drunk.
Defense attorney Eileen Powers told jurors in her closing argument that there wasn't much to the case beyond her client's videotaped confession, and she said even that didn't stand up to scrutiny.
"This case hinges entirely on that video," Powers said. Using her client's nickname, she said most of the video consists of detectives "talking and trying to get Chino to agree."
She said there's little evidence besides that video. There's no DNA evidence proving Alvarado raped Garcia, as prosecutors say he did. And no one at the bar said Alvarado was aggressive, Powers said.
"It's their job to prove the case," Powers said of the prosecution. "Don't let them make you feel bad that they didn't."
Alvarado's confession is suspect because he also was drunk that night and didn't remember it well, she said. As a result, Powers said he simply agreed to scenarios that homicide detectives gave him. Powers also said Alvarado, like Garcia a native of Guatemala, didn't understand a Spanish-speaking detective well because he mainly spoke the tribal language Kaqchikel.
"Chino doesn't remember and doesn't understand everything they say," Powers said. "He never uses words of his own."
Assistant District Attorney Glenn Kurtzrock said that was absurd. "Let's get something out of the way," he began his closing argument. "This dude speaks Spanish."
Kurtzrock said there's plenty of evidence besides the confession that Alvarado strangled Garcia while trying to rape her. That evidence includes her pants and underwear yanked off her body. And it includes the bruises on her back, head and legs, signs that she fought back.
"He didn't like that," Kurtzrock said. "He took off his belt and he wrapped it around that girl's neck, and pulled it tighter and tighter and until she was dead."
Kurtzrock reminded jurors that a medical examiner said it would have taken several minutes for her to die. He stood silently at the lectern for 60 seconds, asking them to picture Garcia's death.
"We know it took longer than that to kill her," he said. "That is intent to kill."