The trial of the first of three suspects accused of killing a young woman while she was visiting Dallas from Seattle in 2020 began on Tuesday.
The long-awaited trial of Lisa Dykes — who, along with her wife Nina Tamar Marano and Charles Anthony Beltran, stands accused of killing 23-year-old Marisela Botello-Valadez — kicked off with opening statements Tuesday morning.
The prosecution’s opening statement to jurors stressed that they would see forensic evidence allegedly tying Dykes to Botello’s murder and the dumping of her body. It was also suggested that Beltran would be testifying and providing a motive for Dyke’s alleged killing of the young woman by detailing his relationship with the two other codefendants.
The defense team representing Dykes cast doubt on the evidence linking her to Botello’s murder, citing, for example, the absence of body cam footage from a Dallas police officer questioning the security guard working at the club where Botello was last seen alive.
As previously reported by The Dallas Express, Botello had been in Dallas visiting friends, and she went clubbing in Deep Ellum on October 4, 2020. Early the next morning, video surveillance footage showed she left a nightclub with Beltran. There was no further sign of her until she was discovered dead in a wooded area of Wilmer near East Belt Line and Post Oak Roads on March 24, 2021.
After being arrested in Utah, Beltran reportedly told investigators that he had brought Botello back to the home he shared with the two codefendants in Mesquite. He and Botello allegedly had sex in the house before falling asleep. Beltran claimed that later he woke up to find Botello being attacked with a knife by Dykes, and Marano prevented him from intervening. Beltran reportedly fled, and upon his return, the couple allegedly told him that everything had been handled.
Cell phone records and forensic evidence taken at the home and inside a black 2014 Audi once registered to the couple helped build a case against the three suspects.
Dykes and Marano were initially apprehended by police in Florida on charges of murder and evidence tampering. However, they fled the country a few months after posting bond, cutting off their ankle monitors in 2021. The FBI apprehended the pair in Cambodia two months later, from where both women were extradited to Texas.
As previously covered by The Dallas Express, Dykes’ trial had initially been slated for January 2023. Yet, a snafu caused by Dallas police detectives failing to turn over hundreds of pieces of evidence and accusations from state prosecutors that the appointed judge, Amber Givens, was biased against them delayed the beginning of the trial.
The proceedings, which are being live-streamed from the Dallas County Courthouse, are being presided over by Judge Nancy Mulder.
The murder trials of Marano and Beltran will be held in February and April, respectively.
In Dallas, the murder rate has continued to rise, reaching 229 this week for a year-over-year increase of 12.3%, according to the City’s crime analytics dashboard. The Dallas Police Department’s efforts to curb crime have been dampened by an ongoing officer deficit, with only around 3,000 officers in the field despite a City analysis calling for about 4,000 in the interest of public safety.