Friday, February 12, 2010
A Butler County jury has found Israel Mireles guilty of capital murder, rape and sodomy in the death of Emily Sander. The jury reached its verdict after an hour of deliberations.
Sander's family wept as the verdict was read.
Mireles will be sentenced March 31st. He faces life without parole.
3:40 P.M. Update
The jury announces it has reached a verdict. It will be read aloud in court as soon as all parties and family members arrive and are seated.
KAKE's Cayle Thompson will have the latest information on KAKE News at 4:00.
3:00 P.M. Update
Jurors are now deliberating the fate of 26-year-old Israel Mireles, charged with capital murder, rape and aggravated sodomy in the 2007 death of Butler Community College student Emily Sander.
Deliberations began around 2:15 after prosecutors and Mireles' defense presented their final arguments.
Earlier in the day, Mireles took the stand in his own defense, claiming he was innocent in Sander's death.
Prosecutors told jurors to consider all the evidence, carefully weigh the credibility of Mireles' testimony, and use "common sense" in coming to their decision. Attorney General Steve Six said there was never any proof a so-called "mystery man" had come to Mireles' motel room and killed Sander while Mireles was away. He pointed to Mireles' attempts to dispose of Sander's body and the murder weapon not as signs of innocent panic, but of guilt.
Defense attorney Melanie Freeman-Johnson criticized investigators, accusing police of having "blinders on," and looking only for evidence that supported Mireles as a suspect.
"This case is about failure," Freeman-Johnson told jurors, adding investigators failed to look for any evidence that might have corroborated Mireles' claims.
If convicted, Mireles faces life in prison without parole. Under an extradition agreement with Mexico, prosecutors cannot seek the death penalty.
KAKE's Cayle Thompson has been following the trial at www.twitter.com/CayleThompson. Stay with KAKE News, KAKE.com, and Cayle's Twitter for any updates should a verdict be reached this afternoon. Complete reports tonight on KAKE News at 4, 5, and 6:00.
11:30 A.M Update
During nearly two hours of testimony this morning, Israel Mireles told jurors he did not kill 18-year-old Emily Sander the day after Thanksgiving in 2007.
The night Sander would die, Mireles told jurors he first met her at an El Dorado restaurant. The two then went with a group of friends to The Retreat bar on the eastern outskirts of town. There, Mireles says he and Sander got close, decided to go back to his motel room, and had sex.
But Mireles says somebody else killed Sander that night.
It happened, Mireles told the jury, after there was an unexpected knock on the motel room door. Mireles says he answered and was met by an unfamiliar man offering to sell him drugs. Mireles says he let the man in after Sander implied she knew him.
Mireles says when he refused to pay for drugs the man didn't yet have, the man tried to steal his wallet. A fight ensued, ending with Mireles leaving the motel room in anger. Mireles told jurors he drove around for a bit, trying to cool down. When he returned, he found the stranger gone, the motel room covered in blood, and Emily Sander dead.
Mireles says he was scared and panicked. He says he didn't go to the police because he believed he'd be a prime suspect, even though he said he was innocent. So Mireles packed up his belongings, put Sander's body in the trunk of his car, and headed for his girlfriend's home in Baxter Springs, Kansas. Along the way, Mireles says he dumped Sander's body on the side of Highway 54 in rural Woodson County.
Asked how he felt about his actions today, Mireles said he felt ashamed. "I didn't know what to do," he said Friday.
Prosecutors spent time picking apart bits and pieces of Mireles' testimony. They found his knife covered in Sander's blood thrown away in dumpster in Baxter Springs, but never found her clothes.
"So the mystery man took her underwear, but left the weapon," Attorney General Steve Six asked Mireles, who said he couldn't explain why that would be.
Six pressed Mireles to explain how the drug dealer would know when and where to find him if he didn't know the man. Defense attorneys objected to the question, saying it called for speculation.
Defense attorneys rested their case shortly before 11:00 Friday morning. Closing arguments are expected this afternoon, followed by the start of jury deliberations.
If convicted, Mireles faces life in prison with no chance for parole. He was arrested in Mexico after the crime. Because of an extradition agreement with Mexico, prosecutors cannot seek the death penalty.
Stay with KAKE News and KAKE.com for the latest. You can also follow up-to-the-minute coverage via www.twitter.com/CayleThompson. Look for full reports tonight on KAKE News at 4:00, 5:00 and 6:00.
UPDATE: Mireles has taken the stand in his own defense.
The fate of Israel Mireles, 26, charged with capital murder, could soon be in the hands of a jury.
Mireles' defense called two witnesses to the stand in the final hour of court Thursday afternoon. Attorney Melanie Freeman-Johnson asked for an overnight recess before calling her final witness, presumed to be Mireles himself.
If Mireles takes the stand in his own defense, he's expected to testify Emily Sander died at the hands of somebody else. On Tuesday, his attorney explained another man killed Sander after coming to Mireles' motel room, attempting to steal his wallet. Freeman-Johnson told jurors Mireles' didn't know the man, but it seemed as though Sander did. Mireles claims he left the room to cool down after the altercation, only to return and find Sander dead.
There's no disputing Mireles took Sander's body, wrapped her in a blanket, then dumped her remains on the side of highway 54 in Woodson County. But Mireles' defense said it's because he panicked and didn't know what else to do.
How a knife with Sander's blood ended up in Baxter Springs, where prosecutors say Mireles drove to pick up his girlfriend before fleeing to Mexico, may need more explanation. Investigators say it appeared no attempts were made to clean the motel room after the crime.
If convicted, Mireles faces life in prison without parole. Per an extradition agreement with Mexico, prosecutors cannot seek the death penalty.
KAKE's Cayle Thompson is following the trial. You can read real-time updates from the Butler Co. Courthouse on www.twitter.com/CayleThompson. His reports will air on KAKE News at 11, 4, 5 and 6:00.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Prosecutors rested their case against Israel Mireles around 3:30 Thursday afternoon. The final witness was a DNA analyst with the KBI, who testified Emily Sander's blood was found throughout Mireles' motel room, his car, and on his clothes.
Mireles' attorney, Melanie Freeman-Johnson, spent about 30 minutes calling two witnesses for the defense - Keely McFann and Brad Scott. Both were with Sander and friends the night she met Mireles at an El Dorado restaurant. The entire group then went to a bar on the east side of town.
Scott testified Mireles had asked where he could go to buy cocaine, potentially an important part to Mireles' defense. Freeman-Johnson told jurors on the first day of trial that somebody else killed Emily Sander - a man who came to Mireles' motel room. Mireles didn't know the man, but Sander seemed to. McFann told jurors Sander had done cocaine in the past.
Mireles claims he left after an altercation with the other man, only to return and find Sander dead.
Mireles' attorney ended Thursday saying she had one more witness to call, widely presumed to be Mireles himself. It's possible Mireles' fate could be in the hands of the jury by Friday afternoon.
Stay with KAKE News and KAKE.com for updates as the trial continues. More information on previous testimony can be found below.
Update - 3:00 P.M.
The final witness for prosecutors is KBI DNA expert Lisa Burdett, who described how she received and tested blood samples related to Emily Sander's death.
Burdett told jurors she received swabs taken from all over the motel room where prosecutors believe Sander was assaulted, raped and murdered. The swabs included blood samples from furniture, carpet, and a toilet plunger. Burdett says the samples she tested all matched the DNA profile for Emily Sander.
She then held up a pair of jeans prosecutors say belonged to Mireles. Blood stains on the jeans were consistent with Sander's DNA, Burdett said. She also told jurors she found Sander's DNA on Mireles' boxer- briefs, and on a knife prosecutors say was used to stab Sander.
Burdett said blood found in Mireles' trunk, on his steering wheel, and on his turn signal also matched that of Sander.
Burdett said some DNA matched Mireles, including DNA found on his undergarments. A partial DNA match for Mireles was also obtained from the handle of the knife containing Sander's blood, Burdett told jurors.
Prosecutors say they will rest their case at the end of Burdett's testimony this afternoon. Mireles' defense reportedly has several witnesses lined up. It's believed Mireles may testify on his own behalf.
Defense attorneys told jurors in opening statements that while Sander and Mireles were together the night she died, somebody else killed her.
For a recap of this morning's testimony, as well as that over the last few days, continue reading below.
KAKE's Cayle Thompson is also following the trial. You can read his updates online at www.twitter.com/CayleThompson, and watch his reports today on KAKE News.
As testimony continues in the capital murder trial against Israel Mireles, jurors hear from a sexual assault nurse who was present during Emily Sander's autopsy.
Diana Schunn has testified at many trials involving sexual assault, including the trial against Justin Thurber, the man who raped and murdered Cowley College student Jodi Sanderholm in January 2007.
Some of today's testimony is among the most graphic jurors will hear in the case. They are also shown graphic photos from Sander's autopsy, detailing her assault injuries.
Schunn told jurors Thursday that Sander suffered significant trauma to her private areas as a result of her assault. Her injuries included an apparent stab wound to her uterus.
Schunn said Sander's injuries were among "the most significant" she had ever seen in her career.
KAKE's Cayle Thompson is following the trial. You can read his updates online at www.twitter.com/CayleThompson, and watch his reports today on KAKE News.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Testimony is underway in the murder trial for Israel Mireles. Mireles is charged with killing 18-year-old Butler County College student Emily Sander in his El Dorado Motel room.
Wednesday afternoon, Victoria Martens took the stand. Martens was Mireles' girlfriend at the time of Sander's murder. Martens testified Mireles called her at 4:00 a.m. the morning of Sander's killing, saying he had hurt a man during a fight. She testified that he had told her there was also a girl in the room before the fight, but that she had left unharmed.
Martens says Mireles arrived to her grandmother's Baxter Springs home later that morning. She says he had some blood on his shirt and arms. She also says he left some of his belongings at the home before the two of them left for Mexico. Martens says she lived with Mireles in Mexico for about a month, before police arrested him. She says she heard Sander was missing, but Mireles reportedly told her he had no idea what had happened to Sander.
The first person to take the stand Wednesday was Misty Walton. Walton was one of Emily Sander's friends. She says she was with Sander the night of her death. Walton confirmed she saw Sander kissing Mireles the night they met him.
Emily Sander's older brother, Jacob, also took the stand Wednesday. Jacob says he went to The Retreat bar to meet up with Emily, the last night she was seen alive. Jacob says Emily was with Mireles that night. He also says Emily introduced him to Mireles within five minutes of being inside the bar.
In cross-examination, the defense asked Walton and Jacob Sander whether Emily was happy that night, and whether she was willingly kissing and and spending time with Mireles. Both Walton and Jacob answered, 'yes.'
The prosecution also called witnesses to the stand who testified about a car found with Emily's blood inside. The owner of Easy Car Rental confirmed, he rented the car to Mireles. Then, two Vernon, Texas police officers took the stand. They both said they found the car abandoned. They also testified, they found blood in the trunk.
KBI Special Agent Frank Papish also took the stand. He responded to Martens' grandmother's Baxter Springs home. Papish says he found keys, a knife, and a bloody t-shirt inside a dumpster outside the home.
Testimony is set to continue Thursday.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Testimony is underway in the murder trial for Israel Mireles. Mireles is charged with murdering 18-year-old Butler County Community College student Emily Sander.
During opening statements, both the prosecution and defense described what happened November 23, 2007. But each side's version of what happened is different.
Both the prosecution and defense describe the night beginning with Emily Sander meeting Mireles at a bar. Then, both sides describe how Sander and Mireles left the bar together. But the defense says after that, Mireles didn't murder Sander. His attorneys say Mireles left her alone in his motel room. They say when he returned a short time later, she was murdered.
But prosecutors say all the evidence points to Mireles as her killer.
The prosecution's first witness was an El Dorado police officer. The officer was the first member of law enforcement to arrive on the alleged crime scene.
Mireles' former employer, and the owner of the motel where Sander was allegedly murdered have also taken the stand.
Sander's former roommate, and one of her friends also took the stand Tuesday. They both testified that no one saw her alive, after she left The Retreat bar with Mireles. Testimony will continue Wednesday.
Monday, February 8, 2010
Opening statements will be heard Tuesday morning in the capital murder trial of Israel Mireles.
Mireles is charged in the 2007 sexual assault and murder of El Dorado teen Emily Sander. Mireles was arrested a month later in Mexico.
In addition to capital murder, prosecutors also charged Mireles with aggravated criminal sodomy in support of the capital murder charge.
A jury was selected Monday. Because of an extradition agreement between the U.S. and Mexico Mireles can not face the death penalty if he's found guilty of capital murder.