Pubdate: Mon, 18 Jul 2011 Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA) Copyright: 2011 Union-Tribune Publishing Co. Contact: http://www.signonsandiego.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/386 Author: Morgan Lee ACCUSED TEEN HITMAN FOR CARTELS GOES ON TRIAL 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. - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.