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Maintained & Compiled by Jon Stimac, OR State Police

Clipped from The El Paso Times, TX
January 7, 2004

Attorneys Debate Print Evidence

By Tammy Fonce-Olivas

The man who shot to death an elderly motel owner nearly 29 years ago left his fingerprints on a glass jewelry case near the front desk of the motel, state prosecutors said Monday in Robert Velasquez's murder trial.

Velasquez, 46, is accused of killing Miriam Coppenbarger, 75, on Sept. 11, 1975, while robbing the Coral Motel, 6420 Montana. He was arrested in August 2002 after police used new technology to match his fingerprints to fingerprints lifted at the crime scene years ago.

Testimony in his murder trial started Tuesday in the 171st District Court. If convicted of murder, a first-degree felony, he could serve five to 99 years in prison and be fined up to $10,000.

Bill Ellis, Velasquez's lawyer, said the mere finding of his client's prints at the crime scene doesn't make him responsible for the murder.

"There were eight other prints of evidentiary value there that didn't come from the defendant," said Ellis, who added that prosecutors have no proof that the person who committed the crime did leave behind fingerprints.

State prosecutors spent Tuesday presenting print evidence in an attempt to place Velasquez at the crime scene. Prosecutors through testimony also showed that several of the prints lifted from the crime scene were found on a glass jewelry case near the front desk of the motel where Coppenbarger was shot.

According to court records, Coppenbarger, who died at a hospital the day after she was shot, told police she had refused to give the robber the turquoise jewelry she sold in the motel lobby.

This is the second trial for Velasquez. His first trial was declared a mistrial by 171st District Court Judge Bonnie Rangel after the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict..   

Copyright 2004, El Paso Times, TX

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