Death Penalty Possible in Mesquite Stabbing

Death Penalty Possible in Mesquite Stabbing

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LAS VEGAS (AP) -- A Utah man could face the death penalty after confessing to stabbing a 3-year-old girl to death and seriously wounding her 10-year-old sister outside a Mesquite casino, authorities said Thursday after recovering bloody evidence they say is linked to the attacks.


"We have a committee that reviews these cases, but I can tell you that he's certainly eligible," Clark County District Attorney David Roger said of 19-year-old Beau Santino Maestas.

Lt. Jerry Hafen, a Nevada Department of Public Safety spokesman, said investigators recovered two knives they think were used in Wednesday's attack and some bloody clothes at an abandoned gas station off Interstate 15 in Fillmore, Utah.

Hafen said police serving search warrants in Mesquite recovered other evidence, including traces of blood in a shower and on towels.

Detectives also were hoping to interview 10-year-old Brittney Bergeron, who remained in critical condition at a Las Vegas hospital with a broken arm and wounds to her arm and back.

Her sister, Kristyana Cowen, died from multiple stab wounds.

Maestas, and his sister and an 18-year-old girlfriend who were not identified, were being held at the Juab County jail in Nephi, Utah. The trio surrendered after Utah troopers received a bulletin and stopped their car about 260 miles northeast of Mesquite.

Crews transfer the 10-year-old attack victim.

Maestas and his younger sister, who he implicated in his confession, will be charged with burglary, murder and attempted murder, police said

"We pretty much had the story before he confessed," Hafen said. "It was just a matter of filling in the details."

Hafen said Nevada authorities were seeking fugitive warrants.

Roger said a defendant must be older than 16 for prosecutors to seek the death penalty in Nevada, and there has to be at least one aggravating circumstance such as burglary. Police were trying to determine Maestas' sister's age.

The two sisters were stabbed just before 2 a.m. Wednesday in a trailer at the CasaBlanca casino-resort recreational vehicle park in Mesquite, a fast-growing desert town near the Utah state line about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

UHP dash cam video of the suspects being pulled over.

The children, their unemployed mother, Tamara Bergeron, and her boyfriend, Bobby Schmidt, were living in the trailer at the CasaBlanca, police said.

Bergeron and Schmidt were inside the casino when the girls were attacked.

Hafen said the couple ate and played a slot machine before being confronted by Maestas, who argued with them over $125. Maestas is accused of leaving the casino and going to the trailer.

"The 10-year-old said a man knocked on the door and told them that their mommy had been hurt," said Joe Szalay, Mesquite deputy police chief. "When she opened the door, he held his hand over her mouth and started to stab her. That's the last thing she remembers."

The deputy police chief said at least one of the girls was stabbed more than five times.

The 3-year-old was pronounced dead at University Medical Center in Las Vegas, where she and her sister were flown by medical helicopter.

Szalay called the stabbing the worst case he'd seen in 13 years as a police officer.

Hafen said Maestas had lived in Salt Lake City, but recently moved to Mesquite to live with his grandmother. He attended Virgin Valley High School in Mesquite in 2000.

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

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