The slayings of a Germantown woman and her 11-year-old son last fall are too closely linked in terms of evidence to warrant separate trials for the alleged killer, a Montgomery County judge ruled Thursday.
Montgomery County Assistant Public Defenders Alan Drew and Stefanie McArdle filed a motion May 24 to have separate trials on the five counts against 46 year-old Curtis Maurice Lopez, the estranged husband of the woman, 51 year-old Jane McQuain, and her son, William.
Lopez is facing two counts of first-degree murder, one count of robbery and two kidnapping charges, court documents state.
Had the motion succeeded, Lopez would have faced separate juries in the alleged murder and robbery of Jane and the alleged murder and kidnapping of William.
But prosecutors objected on the grounds that the close proximity of the killings — police believe both victims were killed Oct. 1 — and the shared evidence in both crimes would make it impossible to separate the cases.
“How can you tell one story without telling the other?” Assistant State’s Attorney John Maloney asked Circuit Court Judge Mary Beth McCormick in his arguments against the motion. “When William was murdered that is consciousness of guilt to the murder of Jane … [Lopez] had to kill William to get away with the murder and robbery of Jane.”
Police found Jane dead Oct. 12 in the apartment she and William lived in on Briarcliff Terrace after co-workers noted she had missed work for several days. William, who was last seen alive Sept. 30, was found beaten to death in a wooded area off Clarksburg Road on Oct. 18.
Maloney and fellow Assistant State’s Attorney Danielle Sartwell also sought to convince McCormick to allow the admission of cell phone records and evidence recovered by police in subsequent search warrants conducted in North Carolina, to where Lopez was tracked in possession of Jane’s and William’s cell phones and eventually arrested.
Maloney said that Lopez planned the murders of Jane and William from North Carolina after learning that Jane had inherited a substantial sum of money from a relative.
“We know he came up here with a scheme in mind,” Maloney said. “He was already trying to sell some of her stuff while she was still alive, so there’s no doubt that he planned to rob her.”
Before traveling to Maryland for a two-week visit with Jane and William, Lopez told his girlfriend in North Carolina that he was going to get her a car and sent her pictures of himself in the black 2011 Honda CR-V that Jane had purchased with some of her inheritance money, according to court documents.
In the days before her body was found, neighbors saw Lopez taking a number of items, including a television and lamp, from Jane’s apartment, police said.
Police later identified Lopez and William on surveillance footage taken Oct. 1 at a storage unit belonging to Jane in the 132000 block of Wisteria Drive, in Germantown. On the tapes, Lopez is seen removing a bat from the unit, police and prosecutors have said.
Drew and McArdle have filed motions attempting to bar the records acquired by police for Lopez’s cell phone and a phone he bought for his girlfriend, who was found driving Jane’s car shortly before Lopez’s arrest in Charlotte, N.C., on Oct. 13.
In the days immediately after the discovery of Jane’s body, detectives requested several call history and cell phone location records from the Cricket cell phone company, including those of Jane’s and William’s phones as well as Lopez’s phone and records for the phone he had bought for his girlfriend, Maloney said.
Drew claimed that detectives did not follow federal or state law in obtaining warrants for the records prior to submitting their request to Cricket. The requests made mention of the accounts possibly being related to an ongoing homicide and missing person investigation.
“Those are their conclusions that are made by the officers that were never looked at by any third party,” Drew told McCormick. “… the state has made a pre-judgment and Cricket has relied upon that assumption [that Lopez was involved in the killings].”
McCormick deferred her decision regarding the cell phone records and several other items seized by police until Friday morning.