Bond denied in stabbing death

December 13, 2005|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ


A Washington County District Court judge on Monday declined the bond requests of two Frederick, Md., residents held at the Washington County Detention Center pending preliminary hearings in the stabbing death of a 22-year-old Hagerstown man during a street fight Saturday morning.

Irving Atllio Benitez, 14, of the 100 block of Willowdale Drive, who is charged as an adult, and Angel Teodoro Villatoro, 35, of the unit block of East 6th Street, both face life imprisonment or death sentences if convicted of first-degree murder charges, Deputy State's Attorney Steven C. Kessell said.

According to charging documents, Benitez and Villatoro allegedly took part in a fight in the 100 block of West North Street in Hagerstown at about 1 a.m. Saturday during which one man, Eliezer Rodriguez, 22, of 600 N. Prospect Street, was stabbed in the abdomen and chest.


Hagerstown police responded to the incident and found Rodriguez inside a residence in the 100 block of West North Avenue, according to charging documents. He was taken to Washington County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

A second man, Cesar Miranda Rodriguez, 27, of the 200 block of N. Jonathan Street, was stabbed in the left side of his back. He was treated at Washington County Hospital and later released.

In addition to the Rodriguezes, at least six men were involved in the fight, including Benitez and Villatoro, according to charging documents. With assistance from the Frederick Police Department, Hagerstown police identified several suspects and arrested Benitez and Villatoro later Saturday.

According to charging documents, Cesar Rodriguez told police he and Eliezer Rodriguez initiated a verbal argument with several men in a light-colored van. Cesar Rodriguez told police one of the men then hit Eliezer Rodriguez, and the men got out of the van and began to punch the Rodriguezes.

A witness identified Benitez by his first name and residence in Frederick, and Hagerstown police and officers in Frederick found him at his apartment, according to charging documents. The witness later identified both Villatoro and Benitez from a photo array.

A second witness noted the license plate of a 1992 Dodge Caravan the men allegedly used to flee the scene, and Frederick police stopped the van and identified Villatoro as its driver. Without cause to hold the men, Frederick police released Villatoro and an unidentified passenger. They later arrested him at his home and handed him over to Hagerstown police.

Benitez and Villatoro appeared emotionless during their bond review hearings before Washington County District Court Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr. An interpreter translated Long's statements and questions for both of the individuals during their separate hearings.

Both are charged with one count of first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder, one count of second-degree murder, one count of attempted second-degree murder, two counts of first-degree assault, two counts of second-degree assault and one count of carrying a concealed weapon.

Kessell argued against bond for Villatoro and Benitez. In addition to the charges, he said Villatoro is a citizen of El Salvador and his status in the United States has not yet been determined.

"Given the nature of the charges and his status here in the country, I would ask that he be held without bond," Kessell said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services could not confirm Villatoro's residency status by deadline Monday.

Wiley S. Rutledge, a public defender representing Benitez, said Benitez was born and raised in the United States and has lived in Frederick for most of his life. He said Benitez cooperated with police and, according to charging documents, there is no evidence Benitez held a knife during the fight.

Villatoro is scheduled for a preliminary hearing at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 10. Benitez is scheduled for a preliminary hearing at 8:30 a.m. Dec. 20.

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