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Dallas police detective fails to turn over hundreds of pieces of evidence in high-profile murder case

Prosecutors said they received a thumb drive over the weekend with more than 300 pictures, audio recordings and body camera video they had never seen.

DALLAS — The family of Marisela Botello flew from Seattle to Dallas for the trial of one of her accused killers.

Nina Marano is one of three people charged in this case and her trial was supposed to begin Monday.

But the trial was delayed after it was discovered Dallas Police detectives had not turned over all the evidence in the case.

Prosecutors said they received a thumb drive over the weekend from the lead detective with more than 300 pictures, audio recordings and body camera video they had never seen.

“I mean, we are definitely disappointed. We expected the trial to finally start,” said Dennesly Castillo, Botello’s niece.

Judge Amber Givens held a hearing while potential jurors waited for hours outside her courtroom Monday. She questioned prosecutors about why they didn’t raise the issue of missing evidence sooner but was also critical of DPD for not turning over all the evidence.

“I take issue with both the police department and the state for that reason. We have Ms. Marano cloaked in the presumption of innocence and a family that is waiting on a trial and jurors in the hallway and this could have been resolved sooner," said Judge Givens.

District Attorney John Creuzot was in the courtroom Monday to answer questions and told the judge that even though his prosecutors did not have all the evidence, it was incumbent upon Dallas police detectives to turn over all videos, recordings and documents required by state and federal laws.

Hilda Duarte a member of the civil rights group LULAC has been an advocate for the family and was in the courtroom for the hearing.

“It boggles my mind to know they botched this so badly,” said Duarte.

Prosecutors said in court they repeatedly asked Dallas Police for the evidence – including body camera footage of searches and interviews with witnesses. Prosecutors say they are still missing a video from the search of a home, and were told the lead detective would bring the video to them Monday morning, but they say they never received it.

Botello’s family says they don’t like the delay but are willing to wait if it means a stronger case.

“It doesn’t matter how long we have to wait or how many times we have to come here, what we want is justice,” said Ernestina Valadez, Botello’s mother.

Maricela Botello was visiting a friend in Dallas in October 2020 when she disappeared after a night in Deep Ellum. She was last seen Oct. 4, 2020. Her body was found on March 23, 2021 in a field in Wilmer, Texas.

Police arrested Marano and her partner Lisa Dykes. According to court documents, investigators believe Botello was stabbed by Dykes but had two other accomplices, including Marano and a man named Charles Beltran. 

All three were arrested in Florida a few days after Botello’s body was found.

Marano and Dykes were released on bond by Givens. Authorities say the women cut off their ankle monitors while out on bond on Christmas Day 2021 and fled to Cambodia.

Eventually, both women were arrested by the FBI and brought back to Dallas to stand trial

Botello’s family says it has been a long ordeal.

“It’s definitely been a very long and unfortunate road,” said Castillo.

Botello’s mother says she wants people to remember her daughter.

“She was always very happy. She was very friendly. She didn’t have any problems with anyone and she was just so loving and kind,” said Valadez.

Dallas police have launched an internal investigation into why the evidence was not turned over. The department also says it’s reviewing all the evidence to ensure it all gets turned over to the court.

Meanwhile, Givens has reset the trial for March.

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