TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Four co-defendants charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the death of 34-year-old Ashley Alcala are said to have been in Topeka at the time of the homicide.
That's according to testimony from Topeka Police Detective George Henley, a co-lead investigator in the case. Manuela Alcala told him she and her son Gabino Alcala had driven to Topeka from El Paso, Texas, on October 17 and were staying at an apartment with the victim's estranged husband Manuel, Henley testified.
She told detectives she, Manuel and his two young children were with her the night of the murder.
Ashley Alcala was found in her house, with a gunshot wound to her head on the morning of October 18. Shawnee County coroner Dr. Don Pojman ruled the death a homicide.
Benjamin Anaya was also determined to be with the group, travelling from El Paso with his friend Gabino, detectives said, adding that Manuela Alcala failed to disclose his presence in Topeka. Anaya and Gabino Alcala left just hours after arriving in Topeka to return home.
All three, along with Ashley Alcala's husband Manuel Alcala, are charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.
Manuela Alcala's defense attorney, Julia Spainhour, objected to parts of Henley's testimony, arguing that the statements provided to him by her client was "hear-say" because she spoke to Henley through an interpreter in Spanish.
Judge Evelyn Wilson took a recess mid-morning to research the issue. Det. Oscar Rodriguez who acted as the interpreter then took the stand Tuesday afternoon and the hear-say motion overruled.
Henley also analyzed phone records that showed the defendant received a call from her son Gabino Alcala at 6:11 am on October 18. Records of that call showed she had travelled to the vicinity of 3022 SE Kentucky, he said.
"We think that Ashley was killed about 7 o'clock or so, and what we know from phone records is that at 6:11 (am), she was at Mani's apartment. By the time that same telephone call ended, she was at victim's house. Again, that's close to the time that Ashley was killed," Chief Deputy District Attorney Jacqie Spradling told 13 News.
In the afternoon, detective Angela Widener, told the court that video footage from Walmart showed Manuel Alcala had sent a $600 Moneygram to his mother in El Paso two days before the killing.
Sergeant Richard Volle, who oversees homicide investigations, testified last and provided revealing details. He and another detective had travelled to El Paso a day after the murder.
He said Benjamin Anaya and Gabino Alcala were detained upon their return to El Paso by Texas authorities. The Dodge pick-up they were travelling contained bloody clothing, Volle said.
He also told the court he observed Manuela Alcala at her house after she had returned to El Paso. Going through her trash, he found a hand-drawn diagram of a neighborhood map in her trash bins. An "X' on the map marked Ashley Alcala's house.
Between the evidence provided by state witnesses, the fact that Manuela received money from Manuel and provided an alibi for him the night of the murder when he was over at Ashley's house was, the court found
this defendant should be bound over for trial, Spradling said.
In her closing statement, Spradling argued that though the evidence was circumstantial and not forensic, it was enough for the state's burden of probable cause to be met.
Defense attorney Julia Spainhour argued that there was no evidence tying Manuela to any activities related to Ashley's death and "in no way ties her to the residence where the homicide happened."
Judge Evelyn Wilson disagreed and set Manuela Alcala's trial date for March 25.
Outside the courtroom, Manuala's oldest son, Antonio Alcala, who had travelled to the hearing from El Paso, said the decision was unfair. "My mother is a good woman and I'm here to support her...as well as my brother," he said. But "the law is the law," he told 13 News. "We're gonna go to trial, we just hope for the best and hopefully everything comes out good."
"We are definitely sorry for Ashley's death," he said, struggling for words, "She was family too." he said.
Ashley's mother, Karren Bacon, did not want to speak on camera, but told 13 News in a statement, "I would like to thank all of Ashley's co-workers and friends and even those I don't know - for all their support and help over the last few weeks."