Convicted child killer: ‘God has forgiven me’
By MARLENE DiGIACOMO, firstname.lastname@example.org
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MEDIA COURTHOUSE -- For the first time since he tossed his 4-year-old daughter, Marcia, into Ridley Creek in May 1993, Angel Reyes took the stand Monday in an attempt to spare his life, and said he is "very sorry." He also asked for forgiveness from the child’s mother, while telling the jury that "God has forgiven me."
Julia Martinez, the victim’s mother, remained outside of the courtroom while Reyes was on the stand. Reyes told police 14 years ago that he wanted to make her suffer, and that’s why he dropped his daughter from the Fourth Street Bridge in Eddystone and left her to drown.
The slightly built defendant, speaking through the aid of a Spanish interpreter, appeared to be wiping away tears as he expressed love for his daughter. He also testified about his Christian conversion when he heard the voice of God telling him to read the Bible, shortly after he was imprisoned for the child’s death.
He said he mostly spends his nights in prayer and his days reading the Bible since he’s been incarcerated.
"I am different. I am a new person," he said. "I want to ask Julia’s forgiveness and her sons’ (forgiveness) for what I did to her daughter. I know she has suffered a lot. I ask her to forgive me. ... I know God has forgiven me.
"I love you and your sons. Yes, I am very sorry."
Reyes, 62, has already been convicted of first-degree murder in the child’s killing. The only issue to be decided by the jury is his punishment. A previous death verdict handed down in 1994 has been overturned. So, a new jury of seven men and five women has been hearing testimony and must decide whether he should die by lethal injection or spend the rest of his life in jail.
Defense Attorney Mary Beth Welch avoided asking Reyes about specifics of the killing to avoid opening him up to cross-examination on that issue. Instead she focused questions on his abusive upbringing as a child and his religious conversion while in jail.
"I have learned a lot from the Bible about God and His son," Reyes testified. "I love the word of God."
Deliberations should begin later today, following closing arguments from attorneys and instruction on the law from Judge Frank T. Hazel.
Reyes followed seven relatives to the stand. The relatives told of his impoverished childhood in Puerto Rico, as well as numerous beatings at the hands of an abusive father who would strike his children with anything handy such as a bar, a rod or his bare hands. They also said he would deprive them of food for days as punishment.
Welch also presented testimony from Dr. Pedro Ferreiro, a Wilmington psychologist, who said because of the emotional trauma suffered as a child, the uneducated Reyes was unable to control his wrath at the time of the killing.
"He lost control and decided he wanted to punish his wife for being disobedient," Ferreiro said, adding that Reyes had learned to react violently from his father.
At the time of the slaying, Reyes had forbidden Martinez from having anything to do with her son, Louis Martinez, who was then 21 years old. However, the defendant found out on May 25, 1993, that she had a reunion with her son. That event sparked the tot’s killing, according to testimony.
On cross-examination, Assistant District Attorney Daniel McDevitt asked Reyes whether he heard any voices when "you threw your daughter into the creek?"
"No," replied Reyes.
"Are you responsible for the murder of your daughter," asked McDevitt.
"Yes," said Reyes.
Reyes, wearing a crisp white shirt instead of the blue prison issue shirt with "DOC" (Department of Corrections) on the back, said he is locked in his jail cell 22 hours a day and allowed out in the yard for only two hours.
"Being in jail is not very good. The food that we get is not very good," he said.