Suspect in Killings May go Free in Ecuador

Countries at odds over where to prosecute him.

Ecuadoran officials have warned the US government that a man accused of killing a young mother and her son in Brockton could go free in six months unless Plymouth County prosecutors send evidence to try him in Ecuador for the alleged crimes.

The South American nation’s Oct. 31 letter to the US Department of Justice follows months of emotional debate between the two countries over where to prosecute Luis A. Guaman, a 41-year-old roofer indicted on charges in the February bludgeoning deaths of Maria Avelina Palaguachi and her 2-year-old son, Brian.

Guaman fled to his native Ecuador using a false passport hours after the bodies were found in a trash bin. Ecuadoran officials soon arrested him and prosecuted him for the document fraud, but he completed his prison sentence last month. Although the Ecuadoran constitution forbids extradition of its own citizens, prosecutors have repeatedly said they would try him for the killings in Ecuador if the United States would send evidence.

Before Guaman could be released, an Ecuadoran prosecutor persuaded the Third Criminal Court of Cuenca on Oct. 14 to keep him in jail for six more months to gather evidence. If the United States fails to send evidence, the government said, it will be impossible to prosecute him.

“We want to see him brought to justice,’’ an Ecuadoran government spokesman said yesterday, declining to be named because the matter is being handled through diplomatic channels. “She was an Ecuadoran national and she and her son were murdered. We want to see justice done.’’

Plymouth County officials have refused to send evidence and have called on US officials to intensify pressure on Ecuador to extradite him to the United States, where he would face stiffer penalties if convicted, such as life in prison, compared with a maximum of 25 years in Ecuador.

Yesterday, Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz again rejected the request to send evidence. Cruz said he believes that, despite the constitutional ban, Ecuador could use a preexisting extradition treaty with the United States to send Guaman to Massachusetts.

“My position remains the same. This is not their case,’’ said Cruz, who had not seen the letter. “This has nothing to do with Ecuador except that this is where this man fled.’’

Cruz, who has called for the United States to consider economic and trade sanctions against Ecuador unless officials turn over Guaman, pointed to Guaman’s passport-fraud prosecution as an example of judicial uncertainty in Ecuador. Prosecutors had said that Guaman could face several years in jail for the crime, but instead he was sentenced to a few months.

Cruz said he should be prosecuted where the crime occurred.

“I am very confident that we will convict him,’’ Cruz said. “He will get life and he will do life.’’

Relatives of the victims say they want Guaman to be prosecuted in Massachusetts because the penalties are stiffer here.

“We want him to come back here, because the crimes happened here,’’ said a sister of Maria Avelina, Maria Eloisa Palaguachi, who still lives down the street from where the bodies were found.

But they are fearful that he will instead be released.

“Don’t let him out,’’ said Maria Emilia Palaguachi, another sister who lives in Brockton. “The elderly people are alone there. What are they going to do? . . . They’re afraid he’s going to get out.’’

Guaman had shared an apartment with Maria Avelina, her partner, her son, and another man to save money on rent. The circumstances of the killings remain unclear, but a housemate allegedly heard them arguing before she was killed.

After his return to Ecuador, police there found and arrested Guaman because he allegedly threatened to kill his in-laws unless his estranged wife sent him money. His wife alerted authorities, who arrested him when he went to pick up the money.

Yesterday, Manuel Tenezaca, who is married to Maria Emilia, said the family is grasping for answers nine months after the deaths. Days after the killings, the family suffered a third loss when Tenezaca’s adult son fell from a roof he was working on and died. His father said he usually watched out for him, but was busy making funeral arrangements for the others.

Now Tenezaca said he is hoping to visit Ecuador, and wants to confront Guaman in jail.

“I want to ask him why did you do this?’’ he said. “Why?’’

This article was written by Maria Sacchetti and published by The Boston Globe on November 16, 2011.

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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We previously discussed the extradition treaty between the United States and Ecuador here.

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Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

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