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Second Guevara murder suspect, Maricela Diaz, moved to adult court

A 16-year-old girl accused of murdering a fellow 16-year-old Mitchell girl two years ago made her first appearance in adult court Wednesday.

Maricela Nicolasa Diaz, 16, of Fort Wayne, Ind., and Guanajuato, Mexico, appeared in court in Alexandria and was charged with first-degree murder, felony murder by arson, firstdegree arson, felony murder committed during kidnapping and second-degree aggravated kidnapping.

If convicted on the most severe charges, she would face a mandatory sentence of life in prison. According to the South Dakota Attorney General's Office, states cannot seek the death penalty for an offender who was younger than 18 at the time the crime was committed.

The charges stem from the murder of Jasmine Guevara, 16, of Mitchell, on Nov. 10, 2009. Diaz and Alexander Salgado, 21, were arrested for the murder. Until Wednesday, Diaz's identity was concealed by authorities because of her juvenile status, and she was known to the public only as "M.D."

South Dakota law says the courts may use a number of factors to weigh whether a child should be tried in adult court, including the seriousness of an alleged felony offense and whether the alleged felony was committed in an "aggressive, violent, premeditated or willful manner."

No juvenile prosecuted for a crime may stay within the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections beyond age 21, according to state law, which may have been a reason for transferring Diaz to adult court.

Court documents state both Diaz and Salgado admitted during police interviews that they killed Guevara. Salgado, who has a child with Diaz, pleaded guilty in 2010 to second-degree murder as part of a plea agreement with the state. He was sentenced to life in prison and is currently serving his sentence at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls. Diaz is being held in the Minnehaha County juvenile detention center.

Guevara was lured to a rural Hanson County house under false pretenses, stabbed and burned alive in the trunk of her car. Salgado told authorities that Diaz was fueled by jealousy of Guevara.

Court documents state Guevara, Salgado and Diaz attended a party on Nov. 8, 2009. Witnesses at the party said Diaz became jealous because of a suspected relationship between Guevara and Salgado.

"Diaz indicated that she wanted to fight with Jasmine, but no such fight ensued that evening," according to court documents.

" 'I'm gonna kill you and I'm gonna kill the girl,' " Salgado quoted Diaz as saying.

Diaz and Salgado had been staying with an acquaintance at a residence approximately one block from where Guevara resided, according to court documents. Both residences are near the corner of First and Minnesota in Mitchell.

Court documents state Diaz and Salgado told Guevara to pick them up to attend a cookout.

"When Guevara picked Salgado and Diaz up at their residence, Salgado and Diaz had secured and hidden a knife for each of them," court documents state.

According to a portion of court records read aloud during Salgado's sentencing by his attorney, Mike Fink, of Bridgewater, Salgado admitted that he drove with Diaz and Guevara in Guevara's car to the "Haunt House," an unoccupied building in rural Hanson County. After leaving the car on Diaz's instruction, Salgado returned to the sound of screaming and found Diaz repeatedly stabbing Guevara in the legs and stomach with such force that the blade of the knife bent.

Court documents state Salgado returned to the car to find the doors locked. He gained entrance into the vehicle, sat behind Guevara, who was in the driver's seat, and stabbed Guevara "a number of times."

"At some point during the attack, Guevara was able to open the driver's side door in an attempt to escape," according to court documents. "However, Salgado grabbed Guevara by the hair in order to restrain her and keep her from escaping."

The knife stayed in Guevara's neck as the two put her body in the trunk, drove the car into some trees and ignited the car with lighter fluid Guevara had purchased earlier that evening under the belief that it was for a cookout.

The fire was determined to be the cause of Guevara's death.

Court documents state a search of the residence where Diaz and Salgado were staying revealed clothing soiled with Guevara's blood. Guevara's phone was recovered in an area provided by Salgado and Diaz.

Even after Salgado confessed to Guevara's murder, he still referred to Diaz as "sweetie" and "my love," according to court documents.

"I love you a lot," Salgado told Diaz in Spanish after his first police interview. "Everything I did was for love."

Until Wednesday, the status of the girl known as "M.D." was secret. The South Dakota Attorney General's Office remained quiet on any details surrounding Diaz, citing a policy that prohibits the office from commenting on juvenile matters.

Court documents state a motion to transfer Diaz to adult court was heard between Jan. 31 and Feb. 4. She was officially transferred to adult court Wednesday by Judge Sean O'Brien.

A representative from Hanson County State's Attorney Jim Davies' office said Davies is not taking any questions on the case. Sara Rabern, spokeswoman for the South Dakota Attorney General's Office, said Doug Dailey and Chris Nipe, both of Mitchell, have been appointed to represent Diaz.

First-degree murder, felony murder by arson and felony murder committed during kidnapping are all Class A felonies punishable by a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

Second-degree aggravated kidnapping is a Class 1 felony punishable by a maximum of 50 years in prison. Firstdegree arson is a Class 2 felony with a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison.

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