Pubdate: Mon, 18 Jul 2011
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2011 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Author: Morgan Lee


A San Diego-born teen accused in the beheadings of four young men on
behalf of a drug cartel went on trial Monday at a juvenile detention
center in central Mexico.

Fourteen at the time of the killings, Edgar Jimenez Lugo faces up to
three years in juvenile detention under Mexican laws designed to
rehabilitate young offenders.

The victims' mutilated bodies were found strung from a highway bridge
in August in Cuernavaca, a popular vacation spot near Mexico City that
has seen a surge in violence linked to feuding drug trafficking gangs.

Soldiers arrested Edgar, now 15, and a 20-year-old sister on Dec. 2 as
they attempted to board a flight to Tijuana and reach their mother in
San Diego.

More than 60 witnesses are expected to testify at Edgar's trial, said
Judge Jose Luis Jaimes Olmos, who will decide the verdict. The
proceedings are expected to last one or two weeks and are closed to
the news media and public under court rules designed to shield minors
from publicity.

The public defender's office that represents Edgar has declined to
comment on the case.

The child of immigrant parents who settled in central San Diego, Edgar
was taken into protective custody at birth after testing positive for
cocaine. The boy's paternal grandmother adopted Edgar and five of his
siblings, and raised them in an urban, working-class neighborhood on
the outskirts of Cuernavaca before her death in 2004.

As Edgar's trial began, soldiers and state police in pickups stood
guard outside the detention center about 15 miles southwest of Cuernavaca.

One of 74 juveniles held behind stone walls topped with barbed wire,
Edgar has received psychological counseling while awaiting trial and
has resumed his studies after dropping out of elementary school in
second grade.

Court officials said the suspect's safety weighed in the decision to
hold the trial at a new courtroom within the detention center rather
than a juvenile courthouse in Cuernavaca.

Drug violence has killed more than 35,000 people in areas across
Mexico since President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006
and deployed federal forces to fight drug cartels.
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.