INDIANAPOLIS – A judge appointed death penalty-certified public defenders Tuesday for two men accused in the slayings of seven family members as prosecutors prepared to file formal murder charges in the case.
Desmond Turner, 28, whom authorities call the main triggerman in the killings, was expressionless as he was led into Marion Criminal Court Judge Robert Altice's court. Turner scanned the two dozen people assembled in the galley before he was seated.
During a brief hearing, Altice appointed the public defenders and set Wednesday afternoon initial hearings for both Turner and co-defendant James Stewart, 30.
Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, who intends to seek the death penalty against the pair, said he would file formal murder charges later Tuesday against both men in the June 1 killings.
He described the crime scene in the home on Indianapolis' east side where the seven relatives were slain a "house of horrors."
"Turner is a serial killer who did all of his work in one day," Brizzi said after Tuesday's hearing.
The judge granted a request by Turner's court-appointed attorney Brent Westerfeld that the defense be allowed to examine the crime scene.
Mark Inman, appointed to defend Stewart, told reporters he anticipated visiting the home soon with Westerfeld, who did not address reporters after the hearing.
"I'll be working with him to do our own inspection of the home. I'm not sure what our time frame will be," Inman said. "We're going to take our time to sort through this."
A message seeking comment was left for Westerfeld.
A funeral Mass for one of the victims, Alberto Covarrubias, was scheduled for later Tuesday at St. Mary Catholic Church in Indianapolis.
Documents filed by prosecutors state that Stewart was searching for a safe the defendants thought contained money and cocaine but found nothing and went downstairs.
There, he found that Magno Albarran, 29, had entered the house and had pulled a gun on co-defendant Turner, whom authorities consider the main triggerman in the killings.
Stewart told investigators he fired a shot from his handgun at Albarran, and Turner then "started shooting everybody."
As Turner continued the rampage, Stewart said he pleaded with him "not to 'go back there' and not to shoot the kids," referring to the bedrooms where the bodies of three children were found, according to the affidavit filed in Marion County Criminal Court.
A deputy police chief has said that accounts of money and other valuables being kept inside the family's home were "fiction."
In the shootings' aftermath, police officers found the bodies of seven people representing three generations of a family inside the home. All had been shot in the head and torso.
Magno Albarran, who returned home with carryout food after Turner and Stewart had entered the house, was killed along with his 22-year-old sister, Flora Albarran, who arrived shortly before her brother to pick up her 5-year-old son, Luis.
Others killed were Luis, the Albarrans' mother, Emma Valdez, 46, and Alberto Covarrubias, 56, who was the father of Valdez's younger sons, Alberto Covarrubias, 11, and David Covarrubias, 8.
Police arrested Stewart without incident after a traffic stop the day after the Thursday night killings based in part on information from witnesses who heard the shootings and watched as the gunmen fled from the home. Turner turned himself in at a fast-food restaurant Saturday.