Murder charges dropped for 2 in fatal stabbing of Seattle woman on vacation in Texas

Texas prosecutors have dropped murder charges against two people in the fatal stabbing of a 23-year-old Seattle woman as a trial continues with the third defendant.

The 2020 killing of Marisela Botello-Valadez drew international attention last year when two of the people arrested in her killing cut off their ankle monitors and left the country while free on bond. The dismissal of charges comes only days after a Texas man who cut of his ankle monitor went on a shooting rampage, drawing renewed attention to questions about the use of technology in freeing people ahead of their trials.

The trial of Lisa Dykes, who still faces murder charges, began last week and continued Monday. But newly public court records show that a judge approved prosecutors’ Friday motions to dismiss the murder charges against the other woman and a man also charged in Botello-Valadez’s killing “in the interest of justice.”

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A Dallas County District Attorney’s Office spokesperson did not respond to a call and email Monday about why they dropped the murder charges against Nina Marano and Charles Anthony Beltran. They each still face a charge of tampering with evidence connected to the death of Botello-Valadez, whose remains were found in the woods months after she was reported missing in Dallas.

Lawyers for the pair and for Dykes did not respond to calls and emails from The Associated Press seeking comment. An attorney who represents Marano, 52, and Dykes, 60, told The Dallas Morning News that he expected the dismissals because Beltran’s account of events has been inconsistent.

Beltran, 34, testified Friday that he lived with Marano and Dykes. He said he met Botello-Valadez at a nightclub and the two went to his house, where they had sex. He said he fell asleep and awoke to screaming as Dykes stabbed Botello-Valadez. Under questioning by Dykes’ lawyer, Beltran acknowledged that he initially lied to investigators about what happened.

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The trio were arrested six months after Botello-Valadez went missing in October 2020. Marano and Dykes were released on $500,000 bonds but last Christmas they simultaneously removed their GPS trackers and left the country, according to court records. They eventually turned up in Cambodia, where they were arrested by local police with help from the FBI.

Another Dallas killing last year prompted Texas lawmakers to enact a law making it a felony to cut off an ankle monitor. The new measure came into effect in September, weeks after authorities in San Antonio received a call about a man who had earlier cut off his ankle monitor having a mental health crisis.

Sheriff’s deputies didn’t arrest the man, Shane James Jr., during the August encounter and he has now been charged with capital murder in a series of shootings that left six people dead in Austin and San Antonio this month.

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