115th District Judge Lauren Parish, who arraigned Espinal Tuesday afternoon after his arrest early that morning in Hopkins County near Sulphur Springs, set bond at the amount recommended by Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd.
During the arraignment, in which the 25-year-old Espinal was assisted by a Spanish-speaking interpreter, the judge found the suspect indigent. After the hearing, she appointed Longview attorneys Kevin Settle and Lance Larison to represent him, Byrd said.
Espinal, an illegal alien who lived in the Sulphur Springs area, is charged with killing 36-year-old Danny Clark and his 35-year-old paraplegic wife, Subrina Clark, Byrd said.
The couple was slain in their apartment at 257 Ervin Hill in the Ervin Hill housing project in south Gilmer.
Preliminary autopsy results show the Clarks died of multiple stab wounds, Byrd told a press conference at the Upshur County Justice Center Tuesday before Espinal’s arraignment there.
Under state law, Espinal is charged with capital murder because he is accused of killing more than one person in the same episode, Byrd said. The district attorney said it would be premature to announce whether he will seek the death penalty if Espinal is convicted. Capital murder is punishable in Texas only by lethal injection or life imprisonment.
Byrd also said Tuesday that Settle and Larison are “very good” attorneys. The prosecutor said that when he was a district attorney in Gregg County, he tried cases against Settle and with Larison, then one of Byrd’s fellow assistant prosecutors.
Byrd also said Tuesday that the Honduran consulate in Houston had been nofied of the charge against Espinal, in case the nation of Honduras wanted to assist in his defense. The district attorney said such notification is standard procedure in cases involving foreigners.
No trial date has been set, and Byrd said the case would not be presented to the county’s grand jury for at least a few months.
During the news conference, Byrd said Espinal, also known as Miguel Gomez, had been in the United States at least five years, working at such jobs as construction.
The suspect, who knew the Clarks and dated one of their relatives, acted out of “jealousy,” said Byrd, who declined to elaborate on the motive for the killings.
During the arraignments, in which Espinalappeared in shackles and an orange jail-issue jump suit, Judge Parish told the defendant that she understood he might speak English, but she was providing an interpreter out of an “abundance of caution.” After the arraignment, Byrd said Espinal speaks fluent English.
Gilmer Police Investigator Roxanne Warren, who has led the investigation into the slayings, said Friday that she was told Judge Parish had issued a gag order in the case, and that she couldn’t comment on it anymore. Byrd and Settle, who was named lead counsel for Espinal, were not immediately available for comment.