ADEL — The opening statements for the trial involving the State of Iowa and Carlos Hernandez-Ventura began on Tuesday, March 14. The State of Iowa has accused Hernandez-Ventura of three counts of first degree murder for the death of victims Lourdes Leake, Melany Barraza, and Juan Jimenez.
Dallas County Attorney, Sean Wieser, called the scene a “House of Horror.”
“The evidence will show that the killer in this case is Mr. Carlos Hernandez.” Wieser said.
Following Wieser’s opening statement, the Defense argued Hernandez-Ventura committed a homicide rather than murder.
“When you hear stab, hit, kick, struck, punch, shot - it is what it is. It does not mean murder,” Defense Attorney Michael Adams said.
Adams argued during his opening statements that Hernandez-Ventura had a motive behind the death of the three victims.
“He did not commit murder,” Adams said. “The reason he killed these people is because a gentleman by the name of Daniel Leake told him to do it. Mr. Leake told Carlos that if you don’t kill these people, I will kill you, and I will kill your family.”
The defense argued that if Hernandez-Ventura did not kill the three victims, his life, along with both his families’ lives in Virginia and El Salvador would be in danger.
After the opening statements, the State brought out the first witness, Officer Lourdes Clay, first responder on the Oct. 29 evening.
Clay was working that evening when a woman approached the station, frantic, Clay says, and was looking for assistance from a Spanish-speaking Officer.
“She said that she needed to speak to me and it was an emergency,” Clay said. “She advised me that there was a dead body at a house and there was blood everywhere.”
Following Clay’s testimony, members of the court were shown a segment of her footage upon approaching the house.
The woman who fled to the police station for Clay was Alma Valtazar, a resident of Perry for ten years.
She went to the police station to avoid the hassle of finding a translator over the phone.
Prior to the arriving at the police station, Valtazar was at home with her daughters.
Her daughter’s father, Onofre Gomez, was at a friend’s house for the evening. She later picked him up from the friend’s house and dropped him off at his residence at 802 Sixth Street.
Soon after, Gomez came back.
“He said that when he went to the house, he opened a door and saw a body that was covered in blood,” Valtazar said through a translator.
Valtazar said Gomez was drinking, so she told him to stay at the house. He could not call the police because he had lost his voice.
Valtazar went with her son to the residence to see for herself.
“I got scared when I went out there and then we just left,” Valtazar said. “I did not get out of the car.”
Instead of calling the police, she headed to the station.
Valtazar reported that she was at the station with her son until around 5 or 6 in the morning.
Following Valtazar’s testimony, Erick Mendez, the ex-husband of Lourdes Leake took the stand.
Erick Mendez saw Lourdes around 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29. They met at ‘Video Place’ in Perry, where Mendez picked up their son.
Later, he stopped by the residence around 6:30 that evening. Lourdes’ blue 2005 Honda Pilot car was missing – Mendez assumed nobody was home.
Following Mendez’ testimony, Onofre Gomez took the stand.
Gomez was one of the residents in the 802 Sixth street house. He lived in the upstairs and recalls Lourdes, Melany, and Hernandez-Ventura living in the basement. Juan allegedly slept in the living room.
Gomez saw people out front of the 802 Sixth Street residence talking around 3 or 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29. Hernandez was one of the individuals talking with the group.
Later that evening, Gomez showered, and then was both picked up and taken to a friend’s house that he was invited to.
Afterwards, he came back to the 802 Sixth Street residence.
“I opened the door and I saw a body laying there,” Gomez said through a translator.
“When I went in, a light was on, and there was a body laying in the living room,” Gomez said. “I was in shock and I couldn’t go farther.”
Gomez let his daughter know what he saw.
“I couldn’t talk on the phone,” Gomez said.
During the cross-examination, Defense Attorney Adams asked Gomez if Daniel Leake was in the crowd of individuals outside the residence at 3 or 4 p.m. Gomez said Leake was not present.
Following the afternoon break, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Agent, Don Schnitker, testified.
Schnitker interviewed Hernandez-Ventura after the killings, stating that Hernandez-Ventura appeared “very calm and not very emotional at all.”
During the interview, Hernandez-Ventura alleged Daniel Leake was a narcotics dealer, and told him that he had to kill Lourdes and Melany.
After looking through Leake’s records, Schnitker was unable to find any history of drug charges.
Defense Attorney Jill Eimermann countered Schnitker’s testimony.
“Just because you don’t find something, usually doesn’t mean it’s not there,” Eimermann challenged.
The remainder of the trial, testimonies were given from the following individuals: Samuel Hofer, Paramedic, Michael Schultz, Dallas County EMS Crew Chief and Critical Care Paramedic, and Jason Bane, Perry Volunteer Firefighter and First Responder.
The trial is expected to continue throughout the duration of the week.