Crime & Courts

Jury can't reach verdict in Reyes case

After more than seven hours of deliberations over two days, the jury in the murder trial of Maria Reyes left Tuesday afternoon without a verdict.

Sedgwick County District Judge David Kaufman declared a mistrial in the case of the woman accused of setting up a robbery that left her estranged husband dead.

Jurors told lawyers afterward that they struggled with conflicting testimony of three witnesses, all of whom were 16 at the time Gonzalo Gomez was shot to death May 15, 2007.

Although all three of the teens agreed Reyes asked two of the boys to help rob Gomez, the details of the plan differed. Jurors said they found it difficult to believe any of the key witnesses — including Reyes, who testified in her own defense.

Jurors also said they struggled with the seriousness of the charge against the 34-year-old mother — first-degree felony murder.

Kansas law allows for a murder charge against conspirators in a felony where someone dies. But some juries have hesitated to convict people who don't actually commit a killing.

Prosecutor Marc Bennett said he would seek a new trial date from Judge Ben Burgess, chief of the criminal courts division.

Defense attorney Mark Sevart had pointed to inconsistencies throughout the trial, and at one point indicated that a 16-year-old girl who rode with Reyes to Gomez's house that night could have set up the robbery.

Kathleen Buendia, now 19, testified that Reyes told her three years ago that she had set up a "fake robbery" at Gomez's house. She testified after being given immunity from prosecution.

Javier Rizo Jr. and Arturo Otano said Reyes asked them to rob Gomez. Both Rizo and Otano were 16 at the time. Rizo is Reyes' cousin.

Rizo said Reyes needed money because she and Gomez had split up and she wasn't receiving child support.

Rizo and Otano said they enlisted the help of another teen friend, Tyler Holmes, and his older brother, Anthony Llamas.

Llamas brought a gun to the house and later pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for firing the shot that killed Gomez.

Jurors didn't hear a police theory that Reyes needed the money because she was in debt to a drug dealer.

In Reyes' car, police found a sack containing several smaller bags of cocaine. She had weighing scales at her house. Reyes is charged with possession in a separate case.

But even that story had conflicting information. Buendia said Reyes took the sack from Gomez's house.

Rizo, Otano and Holmes are serving time in a juvenile detention facility until after their 22nd birthdays.

Llamas, 24, is serving a prison sentence of nearly 29 years. He will be eligible for parole in 2032. He also was convicted in an unrelated case of raping a teenage girl.

Reyes, 34, remains in the county jail. She has been in custody for three years awaiting a resolution to her cases.