Teen Murder Suspects Fight Extradition

Teen Murder Suspects Fight Extradition

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LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Two teenage murder suspects are fighting extradition from Utah to Nevada, where they are wanted in a butcher knife rampage that left a 3-year-old girl dead and her 10-year-old sister paralyzed.


Beau Santino Maestas, 19, and his 16-year-old sister, Monique Maestas, refused extradition during separate hearings Friday in Nephi, Utah, where they have been held since their arrest Wednesday. Maestas confessed to police and said the stabbings in Mesquite were in retaliation for a drug rip-off. The victims' mother and her boyfriend denied that the stabbings Wednesday had anything to do with drugs and called on prosecutors to seek the death penalty.

Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn will ask Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt for an order to return Beau and Monique Maestas to face charges including murder and attempted murder, said Keith Munro, Guinn's general counsel in Carson City.

"We don't have any doubt that they will be returned," Munro said, adding that it could take 30 days.

Crews transfer the 10-year-old attack victim.

Security in the courtroom was tight, with both suspects wearing bulletproof vests over orange jail jump suits and flanked by court officers.

Judge Donald Eyre ordered them held in the Juab County jail, but suggested Monique Maestas be taken to a juvenile detention facility in Provo, Utah.

The two, who have family in Salt Lake City, were arrested on Interstate 15 about 260 miles northeast of Mesquite, a Nevada desert town about 80 miles from Las Vegas near the Utah-Arizona state lines.

A third teen in the car, Sabrina Bantam, 18, of Salt Lake City, was questioned and released without being charged.

Clark County District Attorney David Roger said the case might qualify for the death penalty because of the circumstances.

"He thought he was buying $125 worth of (methamphetamine)," Deputy Mesquite Police Chief Joe Szalay said of the reported exchange between Beau Maestas and the girls' mother Tamara Bergeron and her boyfriend Robert Schmidt.

UHP dash cam video of the suspects being pulled over.

"When he found it was salt, he was so mad he said he was going to even the score," Szalay said.

"The focus of his retaliation was Robert and Tamara," said Nevada state police Lt. Jerry Hafen who reviewed a confession that Maestas provided investigators after his arrest.

"Unfortunately these kids got caught in the middle."

Three-year-old Kristyanna Cowan died and her 10-year-old sister, Brittney Bergeron, was left paralyzed in the attack in a trailer at the CasaBlanca hotel-casino recreational vehicle park where they lived with Bergeron and Schmidt.

"Involving us, there was no drugs," Schmidt, 33, said in an interview Friday at a motor home loaned to the couple while they maintain a vigil for Brittney Bergeron at University Medical Center in Las Vegas.

Bergeron, who on Thursday tearfully called the attack an attempted robbery, called again Friday for the death penalty for those responsible. She refused to answer questions about the motive for the attack.

"He left us in the casino and went down to my home to murder my children," Bergeron said. "My daughter opened the door. He said her mommy was hurt and he was taking her to her, and they stabbed them."

Bergeron said 10-year-old Brittney's spinal cord was severed and she is paralyzed from the waist down. She remains in serious condition, hospital spokesman Rick Plummer said.

Szalay and Hafen said investigators were reviewing casino security tapes after Maestas claimed he paid Tamara Bergeron for what he thought was methamphetamine, and later confronted Schmidt when he discovered it was salt.

"There was a pushing match. A slap and a shove," Hafen said. "A security guard escorted Maestas out of the building. Shortly after that, the stabbing happened."

Schmidt confirmed that he scuffled with Maestas before a casino security guard intervened.

"He hit me in the head and said, 'You're lucky I don't slit your throat right here,"' Schmidt said.

He said Maestas had seen another woman repay money she owed Bergeron, and said Maestas stole money from the trailer after stabbing the girls.

Bergeron called the attack "violent, premeditated murder and attempted murder."

Mesquite and Nevada state investigators have recovered knives from an abandoned gas station in Fillmore, Utah, and found blood evidence in a shower and on towels at a Mesquite residence.

Hafen said authorities planned to look at what he called "the whole environment that the children were in."

Szalay said Bergeron and Schmidt could face charges including child endangerment or neglect for leaving the children alone, or could be charged under a state "turkey law" making it a crime to misrepresent and sell a substance as an illegal drug.

"There's always the possibility that other charges could be filed against other people," the deputy police chief said.

Bergeron said she was laid off recently after working three months at the CasaBlanca casino. Schmidt said he is an out-of-work truck driver.

They said they left the girls sleeping in the trailer for 25 minutes to get something to eat in the casino, and said they played a slot machine while their food was prepared.

"We were going to be right back," Bergeron said. "We were 50 yards from the trailer."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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