Pubdate: Fri, 23 Feb 2007
Source: Palm Beach Post, The (FL)
Copyright: 2007 The Palm Beach Post
Author: Susan Spencer-Wendel, staff writer


WEST PALM BEACH - A federal prosecutor told a judge this morning that
the government will not soon be ready for trial against a klatch of
drug defendants, some of them linked but not charged with the murder
of the family found along Florida's Turnpike in October 2006.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Carlton told a federal judge that DNA
testing is still underway which could result in additional indictments
or exonerate some people in the end.

No murder charges have been filed yet in the deaths of the Greenacres
family - Jose Luis Escobedo, his wife Yessica and two sons 4-year-old
Luis Julian and 3-year-old Luis Damian. The parents and children were
shot execution-style and found in Port St. Lucie in what investigators
have said is a drug-or money-related killing.

Carlton nor the five defense attorneys standing before U.S. District
Court Daniel T.K. Hurley Friday morning spoke the word murder in
referring to additional charges. One defense attorney asked about the
additional certifications the attorneys may need if new charges rise
to a certain level - a cryptic reference to a potential death penalty

"I understand exactly what you're saying," Hurley replied.

Five people have been charged with selling cocaine - Danny Varela,
Daniel Troya, Ricardo Sanchez Jr., Juan Gutierrez and Liana Lopez. All
but Gutierrez have been linked to murders in statements by the St.
Lucie County Sheriff's Office.

During the murder investigation, agents concluded that Escobedo was
likely involved in cocaine trafficking activities.They have publicly
linked Varela, Troya and Sanchez to Escobedo.

A defense attorney for Varela said outside court that while the word
murder was never spoken, that's the issue of the hour. Robert Gershman
said while a murder charge would be highly unusual in federal court,
nothing would surprise him in this case.

"I think that the government is seriously conducting an investigation
unlike any they've probably done in other cases," he said. "This case
is viewed extra worse because of the young kids. Even if something was
a problem, I think the critics will always say 'Why did you have to
kill the kids?"
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin