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Ecuador convicts local man in US double murder

An Ecuadorean man was convicted of premeditated murder on Monday in last year's bludgeoning killings in Massachusetts of a woman and her toddler son in a case that upset U.S. prosecutors because Ecuador insisted on trying the man in his homeland.

He likely would have faced a far stiffer penalty in the United States.

Under Ecuadorean law, the three-judge court that convicted Luis Guaman can sentence him to between 16 and 25 years in prison for the February 2011 murder in Brockton, Massachusetts, of Maria Palaguachi, 25, and her 2-year-old son, Brian Caguana.

Sentencing is set for later this week, and Guaman's attorney said he would appeal the verdict.

U.S. prosecutors had sought to extradite Guaman to the United States, where they said they would have sought life in prison without parole. But their petition was denied because, despite an extradition treaty, Ecuador's new constitution bans the extradition of its citizens.

Earlier Monday, before the verdict was issued, the local district attorney in Massachusetts, Timothy Cruz, called the Ecuador trial "a sham."

"He is an individual who is violent," Cruz said of Guaman. "He murdered a 25-year-old mother and a 2-year-old ... by beating them to death with a sledgehammer, then throws them away in a dumpster," Cruz said.

A few days after the bodies were discovered, said Cruz, Guaman was on a flight from New York City to Ecuador.

Cruz said that when he filed an extradition request for Guaman, he also filed an affidavit outlining the evidence that Massachusetts prosecutors have against Guaman,

But he said he has not cooperated or provided Ecuadorean prosecutors with evidence because they refused to extradite Guaman.

"Quite honestly, I don't know what they're using as evidence," he told The Associated Press.

In all, eight hearings were held in the case, including one Monday in which four witnesses including Palaguachi's sister and husband testified via live video from Massachusetts. The verdict was issued a few hours later.

In her testimony, Dolores Palaguachi said she believed Guaman, 42, killed her sibling because she refused his advances.

Guaman "relentlessly pursued my sister. He wanted her and I believe that's why he killed her," she said.

The husband and father of the victims, Manuel Caguana, also testified from Ecuador's consulate in Massachusetts. He said he was out of town, looking for work, when his wife and child disappeared.

Following the testimony, the Ecuadorean prosecutor, Rocio Polo, asked for the maximum sentence of 25 years, saying Guaman is a violent man who tried to strangle a former spouse in 2007.

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Associated Press writer Denise Lavoie in Boston, Massachusetts, contributed to this report.