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Murder convict Salgado won't testify against Diaz

The court cases against Alexander Salgado, left, and Maricela Diaz, right, who are accused of the 2009 murder of 16-year-old Jasmine Guevara, have totaled more than $400,000. (Photos by Chris Huber/Republic)

ALEXANDRIA (AP) -- A man serving life in prison for murdering a South Dakota teenager three years ago is refusing to testify against his girlfriend during her upcoming murder trial.

Alexander Salgado has promised to cause problems if forced to go to court, State Penitentiary Officer Mark Schlosser said in court Thursday, according to media reports. Salgado, 22, has been involved in violent incidents in prison and is being held in disciplinary segregation, the officer said.

"Based on previous experience with him, as soon as he's given the ultimatum, it ends badly," Schlosser said. "He specifically told me that if he went today, there would be issues."

Prosecutors instead want a judge to allow a videotape of Salgado's confession to be shown during the trial next month of Maricela Diaz. The 17-year-old is being tried in adult court in the November 2009 kidnapping and death of 16-year-old Jasmine Guevara, who authorities said was lured to a rural area, stabbed and left in the trunk of a burning vehicle. Salgado told police that Diaz wanted to kill Guevara because Diaz was jealous of the teen's flirtations with him.

Prosecutors also want the jury in Diaz's trial to be read the transcript of Salgado's testimony at a hearing that led to Diaz's case being moved to adult court.

"Mr. Salgado put us in this position," Deputy Attorney General Brent Kempema said. "Ideally, we'd want to have him on the stand so we could show the jurors what kind of person this is."

Defense lawyer Doug Dailey said letting Salgado testify via videotape would unfairly prejudice the jury against his client. Salgado was combative during his 2011 testimony, and playing a tape of him behaving in a cooperative manner would lend his testimony credibility it doesn't deserve, Dailey said.

"I believe that the witness needs to be brought before the court so the jury has the opportunity to determine his demeanor and to determine if he has any credibility," Dailey said.

Salgado is the father of Diaz's child. Diaz's lawyers have asked Judge Tim Bjorkman to allow them to refer to their client as a victim of sexual abuse whose abuser is an unreliable witness who overstated her involvement to avoid a potential death sentence. Salgado pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Diaz could face life in prison if convicted. She could not face the death penalty because of her age. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Sept. 10 in Sioux Falls.

Both Salgado and Diaz are Mexican nationals who are in the U.S. illegally.