Crime & Courts

February 11, 2010

Witnesses give varied portrayals of Israel Mireles

EL DORADO — After Israel Mireles' former girlfriend said he was not a violent person, a medical examiner described an extensive beating suffered by Emily Sander.

EL DORADO — After Israel Mireles' former girlfriend said he was not a violent person, a medical examiner described an extensive beating suffered by Emily Sander.

The two witnesses Wednesday drew different pictures of Mireles, who is charged with capital murder, rape and sodomy in Sander's death.

"He was always nice to me," said Victoria Martens, Mireles' girlfriend at the time Sander, 18, was killed. "He never hurt me."

Sander, last seen leaving a bar with Mireles in November 2007, suffered extensive injuries to her face and bruising from her head to her legs, Sedgwick County coroner Jaime Oeberst testified.

Martens had been Mireles' girlfriend for seven months when she followed him from Hays to El Dorado. But she wasn't with him the night Sander disappeared.

She said she had gone with her mother to her grandmother's house in Baxter Springs for Thanksgiving. She and Mireles had planned to move back to Texas, where his family lived.

He was to pick her up that weekend, Martens said.

About 4 a.m. that Saturday, Martens said, Mireles called her. He told her he'd been in a fight with a man.

According to Martens, Mireles told her that a man and a woman had come back to the El Dorado Motel with him. He and the man got in a fight, drawing blood.

When Mireles arrived at Baxter Springs, his fists were cut.

"He had blood on his wife-beater and his arm," Martens said, describing Mireles' tank top.

Mireles took some items out of his car.

"He got something to eat and went to sleep," Martens said.

Later that night, the couple drove to Vernon, Texas. They left the rental car there and drove a truck belonging to Mireles' parents to the Mexican border. They rode over the border in a cab, then caught a bus.

After the couple arrived in Mexico, Martens said she heard about Sander's death on the news. She said Mireles told her Sander was the woman he met at the bar in El Dorado.

"But he assured me he was innocent and didn't know what happened to her," Martens said.

Mireles' attorney said Tuesday that after he fought with the man, Mireles came back to the room later and found Sander dead.

Misty Walton, a friend of Sander's, testified Wednesday that the night Sander disappeared, Mireles bought drinks all night for the two women and several of their friends, first at the Beijing Restaurant in El Dorado, then at the Retreat bar.

Walton said Mireles tried to get her to go back to his motel room, but she said no. Then he seemed to turn his attention to Sander.

Tommy Juarez, who worked the door at the Retreat, said he saw Sander and Mireles leave together. They were alone. They seemed happy.

"No distress whatsoever," Juarez said.

Oeberst described what happened to Sander for the jury Wednesday, gleaned from the medical examination after Sander's body turned up in a ditch by the highway between El Dorado and Baxter Springs.

The pathologist described a muscle near the temple.

"You can feel it when you clench your jaw," Oeberst said.

"That muscle was... pulverized," Oeberst said of Sander.

Sander was stabbed twice in the chest and strangled. Any one of the wounds could have been lethal, the doctor said.

Oeberst testified that some of the bruising on Sander's body were "pattern injuries," consistent with being struck by a beer bottle.

Kansas Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Frank Papish and local police found bloody clothing in a trash bin by the Martens' house in Baxter Springs.

Papish testified that he found a white shirt spotted with blood, a set of car keys and a plastic bag filled with clothes.

He also found a large knife and a beer bottle.

The trial continues this morning.

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