Prosecutors on Wednesday charged a 24-year-old man with capital murder in the shootings last week of his twin brother and sister-in-law at a south Wichita apartment complex.
Luis Alvarado-Meraz made his first appearance in Sedgwick County District Court on Wednesday before District Judge Joe Kisner on the charge and on two alternative counts of first-degree murder. Dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, he showed no emotion when the judge told him what offenses he faced in the Jan. 14 slayings of 24-year-old Manuel Alvarado-Meraz and Manuel’s 22-year-old wife, Lucero Rodriguez – the couple he shared a home with at The Shores.
He said little more than “Yes, your honor,” and “I understand” when questioned by the judge.
But the announcement brought tears to relatives of the brothers present in the courtroom to witness the first legal proceeding in the county’s latest death penalty-eligible case.
Police have said a family member found Manuel Alvarado-Meraz and his wife shot to death at their home, near Pawnee and Broadway, early on Jan. 15 and called 911. Authorities think the couple was killed around 7 p.m. the night before. Luis Alvarado-Meraz was arrested in the 700 block of East Mount Vernon about 16 hours later.
In the criminal complaint filed in his case, Luis Alvarado-Meraz is accused of “unlawfully, intentionally, and with premeditation” killing the young couple at the same time or in the course of two connected actions on Jan. 14. The document also gives a notice of “penalty elements” that says prosecutors plan to present evidence of aggravating circumstances connected to the killings at Alvarado-Meraz’s sentencing proceeding if he is convicted of capital murder.
Neither police in interviews nor court documents filed in the case give insight into what motivated the shootings.
Kisner on Wednesday set Luis Alvarado-Meraz’s bond at $1 million. The judge also set an initial date of Feb. 4 for a preliminary hearing in the case, but the proceeding is expected to be postponed.
Family members comforted one another but offered no comments following Wednesday’s hearing.
Alvarado-Meraz will be represented by court-appointed defense attorney Mark Manna of Topeka. If convicted of capital murder, he would face either life in prison without parole eligibility or the death penalty.
On a financial affidavit filed with the court, Alvarado-Meraz said he was single and self-employed as an oil painter. Next to a question that asked the reason he received no unemployment benefits, Alvarado-Meraz wrote: “ilegal Alien.”