EL DORADO — An investigator described a bloody crime scene in Room 21 of the El Dorado Motel the day after Emily Sander disappeared.
His description and other evidence spells out the brutality that 18-year-old Sander suffered just after Thanksgiving in 2007, Kansas Attorney General Steve Six told a jury Tuesday morning.
Sander had been stabbed at least twice and strangled with a telephone cord.
Israel Mireles is charged with capital murder, rape and aggravated sodomy at his trial in Butler County District Court.
"He didn't do this," Melanie Freeman-Johnson, Mireles' public defender, told the jury.
For the first time, the defense outlined its theory of what happened that weekend in 2007:
Mireles and Sander were partying at the Retreat Bar. But the group had been looking for drugs — cocaine, "blow" as they called it, Mireles' lawyer said.
Later, Mireles and Sander went back to his motel room. They had sex. Then Mireles heard a knock at the door, his lawyer said.
Mireles didn't know the man but Sander seemed to, Freeman-Johnson told the jury.
But inside, the man tried to rob Mireles and take his wallet. There was a scuffle. Mireles eventually took his wallet back and left the motel, driving around.
"He was trying to cool off," Freeman-Johnson said.
When Mireles returned to the El Dorado Motel, he claimed to find the bloody scene.
"He panicked," Freeman-Johnson said.
Mireles loaded up his belongings and also put Sander's body in the trunk, then headed to where his teenage girlfriend was staying in Baxter Springs.
"He gets down the road before he has the presence of mind to remember he had Emily with him," Freeman-Johnson said.
"He couldn't go back," Freeman-Johnson added. "He was afraid to go to the hospital."
Sander's body was found 53 miles from El Dorado in a ditch off U.S. 54. She lay in a sexually explicit pose, her face beaten beyond recognition.
Six said investigators found a large knife in a trash container at the home Mireles visited in Baxter Springs — on his way to Mexico.
When Aurelia Resa saw Sander leave with a man from the Retreat the night of Nov. 23, 2007, she asked who he was.
"He works at the Italian restaurant," Resa testified a friend told her.
Mireles came to Kansas from Vernon, Texas, where he had met restaurateur Joe Terziu.
Terziu hired Mireles to help open restaurants. Mireles helped get buildings ready; then he would work with kitchen prep and wait tables after the restaurants opened.
"I thought he was a great guy," Terziu testified Tuesday.
Mireles helped Terziu open a restaurant in Hays. They came to El Dorado to open Bella Casa, an Italian restaurant.
Terziu testified that the space for the restaurant adjoined the El Dorado Motel. Terziu also got a couple of rooms at the motel, where he and Mireles lived as they prepared the restaurant for its opening.
Mireles and his girlfriend, Victoria Martens, who followed him from Hays, stayed in Room 21.
A bloody motel room
The day after Thanksgiving, Mireles asked for his pay, Terziu testified.
It was a Friday but not payday. Terziu said Mireles told him his grandmother was sick in Texas. Martens had gone to her grandmother's in Baxter Springs. Terziu said he gave Mireles $600.
That night, Resa saw Sander leave the Retreat with Mireles.
"She said she'd return," Resa testified.
Saturday morning, Sander's car was still parked at the bar.
That morning, El Dorado Motel owner I.C. Patel noticed a broken window in Room 21. He used a pass key to open the room.
"I saw all the blood inside," Patel said.
Patel went to Bella Casa to fetch Terziu.
"It looked scary," Terziu said.
Patel drove to the El Dorado police station and told them about the bloody room.
Kansas Bureau of Investigation crime scene investigator David Klamm found blood stains on the bed, on the floor, on the handle of a plunger, on the arms of chairs by the broken window and smudged by a light switch.
Trained in blood patterns, Klamm recognized splatters above the bed as "cast-off stains." He said it was like someone throwing bloody punches on the bed.
What Klamm didn't find was blood in the bathroom — no evidence that anyone tried to clean up afterwards.