A judge decided Thursday to keep a 26-year-old man in jail on a charge that he murdered his estranged wife, though no body has been found and the woman told family members she wanted to leave Las Vegas.
Francisco Vazquez-Rosas faces one count of murder after he was indicted by a Clark County grand jury last week in connection with the disappearance of Teresa Guzman. He pleaded not guilty to the charge Thursday before District Judge James Bixler.
Vazquez-Rosas' attorney, public defender Dan Silverstein, called for his client's release from custody. Two key witnesses are Vazquez-Rosas' two children, who were both under 7 years old at the time. One has changed her story at least once.
Vazquez-Rosas also endured a more than 10-hour long interrogation by Las Vegas police detectives before he "confessed," Silverstein said. And not only did Guzman tell family members she wanted to leave Las Vegas, but she was in the United States illegally and may have been deported to Mexico, Silverstein said.
Vazquez-Rosas is also in the United States illegally and would face deportation upon his release from jail.
But prosecutors believe they have enough evidence to convict Vazquez-Rosas, even without Guzman's body.
Prosecutor Christopher Lalli said that Vazquez-Rosas' children testified before a grand jury that they saw him kill their mother and dump her body in a trash bin. They "told the grand jury 'daddy killed mommy,'" Lalli said. Lalli added that no family members have heard from Guzman, including those in Mexico.
Authorities allege Vazquez-Rosas choked his wife to death on Dec. 13, 2008, after an argument over their extramarital affairs and her desire to leave Las Vegas with their three children. Police say they think Guzman's body ended up in a trash bin that was taken to the Apex landfill and probably will never be found.
Guzman was not reported missing by family members until five months after she disappeared.
Investigators believe the reason for the delay was that Vazquez-Rosas perpetuated a rumor that his wife was alive and had left him for another man, police have said.
Silverstein said his client didn't report her missing because he believed going to the police would lead to his deportation.
Vazquez-Rosas is still being held without bail at the Clark County Detention Center.
Silverstein said his client will invoke his right to a trial in 60 days. He said he also plans on filing a motion to suppress the confession.
Contact reporter Francis McCabe at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-1039.