State builds methodical case in triple-murder trial

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ADEL — Drawing out testimony from more than a dozen witnesses, Assistant Dallas County Attorneys Erica Clark and Sean Wieser spent Tuesday and Wednesday building the state’s case against Carlos Hernandez-Ventura, 26, on trial in Dallas County district court for a triple homicide committed last October in Perry.

The 14-person jury heard testimony from several crime scene experts from the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation. The criminalists described the scene of the murders of Lourdes Flor De Maria Leake, 34, Melany Elizabeth Barraza, 14, and Juan Jimenez Tejeda, 78, all of Perry.


In Wednesday afternoon testimony, Peter Wagner, lead criminalist with the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation, revealed to the jury the murder weapon allegedly used in the Oct. 29 crimes, a machete used to partially decapitate both Leake and Barraza and to seriously wound Jimenez.

Fifth Judicial District Court Judge Paul R. Huscher is presiding over the trial, which he said is expected to take about eight days to hear.

The defense will present its case following the prosecution’s presentation.

Hernandez-Ventura is defended by Jill Eimermann, assistant public defender in the Special Defense Unit of the Iowa Public Defenders office, and Mike Adams, chief public defender in the Special Defense Unit of the Iowa Public Defenders office.

Court-appointed interpreters are translating the proceedings into Spanish for Hernandez-Ventura, who can read and write in Spanish, having received a sixth-grade education in his native country of El Salvador.

Donald Schnitker, standing, special agent with the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation, described for the jury the scene of the crime, including the locations of the victims, during testimony Tuesday in Adel.

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