updated 8/8/2006 2:00:10 PM ET 2006-08-08T18:00:10

Jurors on Tuesday convicted two men of murdering three young relatives whose bodies were nearly decapitated.

Policarpio Espinoza, 24, and Adan Canela, 19, were found guilty of slashing the children’s throats.

Espinoza was the uncle of 9-year-old Ricardo Espinoza Jr., 8-year-old Lucero Espinoza and their 10-year-old male cousin, Alexis Espejo Quezada. Canela was a cousin of the victims.
Canela and Espinoza’s first trial in 2005 ended in a hung jury.

The reading of Canela’s verdict Tuesday initially was interrupted when the jury appeared confused about what they had agreed upon. As the forewoman began reading the verdict, several jurors shook their heads.

After some discussion, the judge ended up sending the jurors back to the jury room to clarify their verdict. They returned after a short interlude and the verdict was read without further incident.

Gruesome murder technique
The children’s bodies were found in the family’s apartment in May 2004. Police said the boys were strangled and the girl was hit in the head with a baseball bat before their necks were cut within inches of decapitation.

The gruesome murders of the three children sickened even hardened detectives in a city that perennially has one of the nation’s highest homicide rates.

Prosecutors were never able to define a clear motive for the crime, but suggested that members of the family knew more about the murders than they let on.

Defense attorney James Rhodes has suggested the children may have been murdered for lack of payment by their families for being smuggled into the United States when the family immigrated from Tenenexpan, a small town in the Mexican state of Veracruz.

Prosecutors said DNA testing proved blood on the suspects’ clothing belonged to the three slain children. They said cell phone records put the two men in the vicinity of the children’s apartment about the time of the murders.

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