Image: Pedro Miranda, center.
Bob Child  /  AP
Pedro Miranda, center, on Monday was charged with multiple charges of capital felony and murder in connection with the deaths of three teenage girls 20 years ago.
updated 12/8/2008 6:57:27 PM ET 2008-12-08T23:57:27

A victim's angry brother scuffled with courtroom security Monday as a registered sex offender appeared in court on charges that he killed three teenagers two decades ago.

Pedro Miranda, 51, was in court for the first time since being arrested Friday at his New Britain home. As he was escorted into Hartford Superior Court, angry onlookers screamed and one, Jose Lopez, attempted to rush forward before being restrained by judicial marshals.

Judge Carl Taylor cleared the courtroom for nearly 20 minutes and allowed most spectators to return only after state and city police arrived for additional security. He warned spectators they faced possible arrest if they did not remain quiet. "If you believe you cannot control yourself, leave now," he said.

Lopez was not charged.

Miranda was arrested following a cold case investigation by state and local police. He is accused of multiple charges of capital felony and murder in the deaths of 16-year-old Rosa Valentin in 1986, 13-year-old Mayra Cruz in 1987 and 17-year-old Carmen Lopez in 1988. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Sara Bernstein, a lawyer for Miranda, declined to comment Monday.

'This guy's a psychopath'
Hector Cardon, Carmen Lopez's cousin, complained that Miranda wouldn't look at the family and didn't appear to show remorse. He said he was "angry that I couldn't get a hold of him myself for a couple of minutes. This guy's a psychopath."

Wanda Cruz, Mayra Cruz's sister, called the court hearing "a bittersweet moment for all of us."

Miranda, whose adult arrest record dates to 1977, is listed on the Connecticut Sex Offender Registry for a 1998 conviction for raping a 24-year-old woman in West Hartford.

Miranda will not face any sexual assault charges in the 1980s cases because the statute of limitations for the crimes has expired. But prosecutors say DNA evidence from two of the victims' bodies helped link Miranda to the killings.

The Connecticut Innocence Project petitioned court officials last week for a new trial on behalf of Lopez's one-time boyfriend, Miguel Roman, who is serving a 60-year term in her death. The warrant for Miranda's arrest says new DNA tests from the scene exclude Roman, 52, who has been in prison since his arrest in June 1988.

A jury convicted Roman in the Lopez death on circumstantial evidence and witness testimony, despite an FBI investigator's testimony that tests eliminated him as a suspect, according to an affidavit for Miranda's arrest warrant.

Karen Goodrow, an attorney and director of the Connecticut Innocence Project, said Friday she could not discuss details of Roman's case because the group's petition for a new trial was still pending.

Taylor ordered Miranda held under a suicide watch. His bond remained at $7.5 million and he is to appear in court again Dec. 16.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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