Three children found hacked to death in Baltimore apartment

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The Independent US

It was a scene of savagery that made even hardened police from the toughest parts of Baltimore blanch with horror - three children slaughtered in an apartment, one of them fully decapitated, the two others with their heads half-slashed from their bodies.

It was a scene of savagery that made even hardened police from the toughest parts of Baltimore blanch with horror - three children slaughtered in an apartment, one of them fully decapitated, the two others with their heads half-slashed from their bodies.

The first police officer to arrive at the scene on Thursday was overcome by what he saw, and Kenneth Blackwell, the city's deputy police chief, was no less stunned. "I've seen my share of murders but I've not seen anything as gruesome as this. It's something I'll remember until I draw my last breath."

Two men were arrested and charged yesterday in connection with the triple murder. But their relationship with the victims and their families was not immediately clear. Police were baffled by what could motivate such an appalling crime.

"This was an act of someone or some people without a conscience," Deputy Chief Blackwell said. Baltimore's Mayor, Martin O'Malley, said the crime was "brutal, tragic and unfathomable."

The killings took place in a residential area of north-west Baltimore, 40 miles north of Washington DC. The multi-racial neighbourhood, which has a large Jewish population, has no recent history of violent crime.

The three children, two of them siblings and one a cousin, were named as Ricardo Espinosa and Lucero Quesada, both aged nine, and Alexis Quesada, a 10-year-old girl. Police believe they belonged to two separate families who shared the apartment.

The three had returned home from school at about 3.30pm, and were seen by neighbours shortly afterwards, chasing cicadas in the courtyard. Two hours later, their mutilated bodies were found.

According to one neighbour, the children were "carefree kids" and inseparable friends. "Every time I saw them, they was playing cheerfully out in the yard," Gregory Carter said.

Like so many of their age this spring, they were pursuing the lumbering periodical cicadas which have returned to the mid-Atlantic region after a 17-year absence.

The body of one boy, who was beheaded, was found in one bedroom of the apartment while the slashed bodies of his two friends were lying in another room. They were found by their two mothers when they came home after shopping for groceries. The women ran screaming for help to neighbours, who called the police.

Later, investigators recovered a weapon from outside the apartment, said to be a kitchen knife, wedged between a wooden fence and a garage behind the building complex. But there was no sign of forced entry to the apartment.

Nor were any weapons were found inside, nor any trace of drugs or drug use, according to Deputy Chief Blackwell.

Last night, the entire neighbourhood was still in shock. "This is a first," said Lena Johnson, who works at an old people's home. "I've never heard of anyone getting shot up here or beaten to death. It's just a sad, sad situation."

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