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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • Families of murder victims upset by plea

  •  The families of two murder victims are angered by a purported deal in which alleged killer Manuel G. Cazares would accept a sentence of 30 years behind bars in exchange for pleading guilty.

     


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  •  The families of two murder victims are angered by a purported deal in which alleged killer Manuel G. Cazares would accept a sentence of 30 years behind bars in exchange for pleading guilty.
       They plan to urge a judge Tuesday to set aside the plea and proceed with the trial that had been scheduled to start April 13.
       If a jury convicts Cazares, he could get as many as 90 years in prison.
       The 33-year-old illegal immigrant is charged with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of armed criminal action in the Feb. 28, 2009, stabbing deaths of 27-year-old Amanda R. Thomas and 25-year-old Carl Patrick Epley.
       Five family members of the victims spoke Friday to the Courier-Post about the plea, which two of them said had been outlined in a letter from Marion County Prosecuting Attorney Tom Redington.
       “We’re not happy with him getting 30 years for killing two people,” said Angie Geiler, a sister of Thomas.
       “We want the trial,” said another sister, Tina Masengill. “We will beg the judge on Tuesday to give us a trial.”
       “It’s been over a year,” Epley’s mother, Jodie, said as she fought back tears. “I can’t go on like this.”
       “I’m angry because nothing’s being done about it,” said Epley’s brother, Corey. “No amount of time is going to be enough. I hope justice gets served.”
       Patsy Rayl, Epley’s grandmother, said Cazares deserves to be convicted and sentenced to die.
       “They’ve got to do something to get the point across,” said Rayl, who called her grandson a “ray of sunshine” and said he “never met” an enemy. “I don’t think what they’re doing is fair.”
       Jodie Epley helps care for her son’s child, who is now four, and Thomas’ family cares for her two children, one of whom she had with Cazares.
       Redington was not available for comment Friday. Cazares’ attorney, Todd Schulze, declined to discuss specifics.
       “We anticipate there will be a plea,” Schulze said. “I’m not at liberty to discuss what it will be at this time.”
       Judge Ted House does not have to accept the plea. The hearing is at 9 a.m. Tuesday in St. Charles County Circuit Court, where the case was moved on a change of venue.
       Family members claim Redington did not ask their opinion about the latest deal before it was offered, as he apparently did when the issue came up in December.
       Masengill said that back then, Redington told the families that Cazares had offered to plead guilty if he got only 30 years in prison. She said the prosecutor asked the families what they thought of the deal.
    Page 2 of 2 -    “We said ‘Hell, no, not a chance,’” Masengill said. “This man stabbed to death two people while they slept. We were just beside ourselves.”
       Masengill said Redington reminded the families that juries were unpredictable and that a conviction was not guaranteed. There was also the possibility that the testimony could turn ugly. The families were unfazed.
       “No matter what, at the end of the day for our family to have closure, we have to have a fair trial,” Masengill said.
       The families claim Redington reneged on a promise to “prosecute (the case) to the fullest,” Masengill said.
       “At the beginning, he told us ‘Manuel Cazares will never see the light of day,’” she recalled.
       The sisters of Amanda Thomas said their family was notified of the latest proposed sentence in a letter from Redington. As of early Friday afternoon, Epley had not received a similar letter.
       Police say Cazares turned himself in a few hours after the killings and directed them to the bodies of Thomas and Epley, who were found in a bedroom at Thomas’ unlocked Hannibal apartment. Epley was a friend of Thomas’ from high school.
       During earlier testimony in the case, police reported Cazares confessed to the crime and said that jealousy was his motive. Authorities said Cazares was in America illegally.
       Cazares and Thomas met in 2006 when they worked at adjoining Hannibal businesses.
    The suspect told authorities the relationship ended in fall 2008, but that he and Thomas kept in periodic contact because of their child.
       Cazares had several previous run-ins with the law, but always provided what appeared to be legitimate identification to authorities. The documents later proved to be false.
       Thomas had sought three orders of protection against Cazares, but did not enforce the first two. She died before a hearing could be held on the third.
       If case does go to trial and Cazares is convicted, he likely would serve the sentence before being deported to his native Mexico. The suspect has been in the Marion County Jail on $1 million cash-only bond since his arrest.
       “We don’t want him ever to get out,” Masengill said.
     
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