EL DORADO, Kan. — A jury convicted a man of capital murder and rape Friday in the killing of a Kansas college student who led a secret life as an Internet porn model.
Jurors deliberated just more than an hour before convicting Israel Mireles, 26, in the death of Emily Sander. The 18-year-old Butler Community College student's disappearance received national attention after it was revealed she also was known as Internet model Zoey Zane.
An aggravated sodomy count was dropped by Butler County District Judge David Ricke, who said it was part of the capital murder charge.
Family and friends of Sander cried after the verdicts were read. Mireles showed no reaction as he was led out of the courtroom.
Mireles testified Friday that he left a so-called mystery man in a motel room where he'd gone with Sander after a night of underage drinking, and found her dead when he returned. He said he went on the run because he figured authorities would blame him for her death.
Mireles was arrested December 2007 in Mexico. Prosecutors had to promise Mexican authorities they would not seek the death penalty before his extradition was approved. He faces life in prison without parole when sentenced March 31.
Witnesses testified Sander left a southeast Kansas bar with Mireles the night of Nov. 23, 2007. Her battered, nude body was found six days later about 50 miles away.
Drug deal gone wrong?
Public defender Melanie Freeman-Johnson has said another man came into the motel room where the two went and became violent after a drug deal went sour. She argued in her closing that police settled on the convenient suspect.
Mireles testified Friday that he and Sander went to the motel, had sex and drank beer. He said he fought with the other man about the drugs and left the motel.
When Mireles returned, he said he saw Sander's body, gathered his belongings and her body then fled. He said he wanted to get to his family and his pregnant girlfriend, Victoria Martens. He said he didn't know why he didn't call police.Video: Teen porn star murdered
"I was scared," he said. "I figured the first person they'd blame would be me."
He also said he didn't know why he wrapped her body in a blanket and put it in the car. On his way to see his girlfriend in Baxter Springs, Mireles dumped Sander's body near the side of the road.
Mireles and Martens then drove to Texas and on to Mexico.
Authorities later found Sander's blood on a knife and clothes in a trash bin at Marten's grandmother's house in Baxter Springs.
On Friday, Kansas Attorney General Steve Six tried to cast doubt on Mireles, questioning why would he take Sander's body with him, then dump the body and bring the knife to Baxter Springs.
At one point, Six incredulously asked Mireles: "Does that make any sense to you?"
Mireles replied, "None of this makes any sense to me."
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