Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Dade City man acquitted in first-degree murder trial

After 14 months in jail, Carlos Perez is now a free man.

After 14 months in jail, Carlos Perez is now a free man.

DADE CITY — Linda Hiracheta's attention bounced back and forth Thursday evening between her cellphone and the courthouse's automatic glass doors.

She dialed, then switched to speakerphone.

Her Spanish flowed rapid fire into the receiver about her son, Carlos Perez. One word, she repeated: libre, which means "free."

After a year and two months in jail, here at the end of his first-degree murder trial, that's what he was: free.

Perez was charged in the May 12, 2013, shooting of Arturo Escamilla in an abandoned house at 14918 Dade St.

Original reports said Escamilla got into a dispute with Perez. Prosecutors said Perez shot Escamilla twice in the head.

Witness Cesar Limas told deputies he wrestled the gun away from Perez, 29, and he fled, a report states.

But assistant public defender Dustin Anderson made his case on the inconsistencies in Limas' testimony and a lack of evidence tying Perez to the crime.

Five men were in the house where, Limas testified, he sold marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine. After two gunshots sounded from inside, people in the neighborhood watched four men run out. Perez was the first and ran down the street. The other men jumped in a car and sped off.

Jurors learned that Perez said he had been sleeping on a couch in the house when a fight broke out, and that he was running for his life. Family members of Escamilla, 24, said he never had trouble with Perez. But he'd had feuds with Limas and others in his group.

In the days preceding the killing, Limas had been photographed in the house holding what was believed to be the .45-caliber handgun that killed Escamilla.

Anderson told jurors the state had more evidence against its witnesses than the man in the defendant's chair. The jury took an hour and five minutes to reach a decision: not guilty.

That's a rarity in a first-degree murder case. The last person in Pasco County to be acquitted of first-degree murder was Anthony Harris in 2010. Harris was accused of gunning down a Dade City drug dealer.

Before the verdict was read, Judge Pat Siracusa warned Perez and his family to stay stoic and quiet no matter the outcome, and they did.

"If we could, we would have jumped (for joy)," said his sister Corina Perez while they waited outside the courthouse lobby for him to emerge.

Then, through the sliding glass, they saw him walking through the corridor with his white dress shirt untucked. His mother, sister and niece crowded around. A passing bailiff and a court reporter congratulated them.

There wouldn't be a party, just a home-cooked meal. The family's home was close enough to walk there.

They turned west on the sidewalk toward a setting sun and Hiracheta looped an arm around the shoulders of her son, now a free man.

Contact Alex Orlando at or (727) 869-6247.

Dade City man acquitted in first-degree murder trial 07/17/14 [Last modified: Thursday, July 17, 2014 10:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Mayor Rick Kriseman endorsed by another police union


    ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman is already backed by the city's largest police union, the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman has secured another police union endorsement
  2. Drinking alcohol on St. Pete Beach beaches now allowed — for hotel guests only

    Local Government

    ST. PETE BEACH — Guests at gulf-front hotels here can now drink alcoholic beverages in permitted hotel beach cabana areas.

    Guests relax on the beach near the Don Cesar at St. Pete Beach. Guests at gulf-front hotels in St. Pete Beach can now drink alcoholic beverages in permitted hotel beach cabana areas after the change was passed unanimously by the City Commission Tuesday night. Residents and other beachgoers who are not registered guests of the hotels continue to be barred from imbibing anywhere on the city's beaches.
  3. Man found floating in 'Cotee River in New Port Richey

    Public Safety

    NEW PORT RICHEY — A body was found floating in the Pithlachascotee River on Tuesday morning, police said.

  4. More than 13,000 fact-checks later, PolitiFact celebrates 10-year mark


    ST. PETERSBURG — Bill Adair still remembers the moment when he realized his idea to fact-check politicians could turn into something big.

    From left, Aaron Sharockman, Politifact executive director, introduces a panel featuring Angie Holan, Politifact editor; PolitiFact founder Bill Adair; and Neil Brown, Tampa Bay Times editor and vice president, at the Poynter Institute on Tuesday.
  5. Trump, McConnell feud threatens GOP agenda


    The relationship between President Donald Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, has disintegrated to the point that they have not spoken to each other in weeks, and McConnell has privately expressed uncertainty that Trump will be able to salvage his administration after a series of summer crises.

    Sen. Mitch McConnell has fumed over Trump’s criticism.