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      Illegal immigrant found guilty of murder

      The jury found Manuel Cazares guilty / KHQA file photo

      UPDATED: August 8 at 5:18 p.m.

      The Hannibal man found guilty of killing 2 people in 2009 was sentenced to two life sentences Monday.

      The judge sentenced Cazares to 2 life sentences for the murders.

      Manuel Cazares was found guilty of killing Amanda Thomas and Carl Patrick Epley back in February 2009.

      The defense plans to appeal.


      UPDATED: April 14 at 9 p.m. Manuel Cazares was found guilty of two counts of second degree murder in the deaths of Amanda Thomas and Carl Patrick Epley.

      He also was found guilty of armed criminal action.

      Cazares was on trial this week in a St. Charles County courtroom on a change of venue

      Thomas and Epley were stabbed to death in Thomas' Hannibal apartment in February 2009.

      KHQA's Rajah Maples was in the courtroom Thursday as Cazares took the stand for about three hours.

      An interpreter communicated to and for Cazares on the witness stand Thursday morning, where Cazares talked about his and Thomas' tumultuous relationship. The couple had a child together, but there was an order of protection for Cazares to stay away from Thomas after a heated argument during Thanksgiving 2008.

      Thomas and Cazares met five times after that, despite the order. Cazares said Thomas called him the night before the murders; told him she loved him and wanted to see him. He spent the night with her that night. The prosecution brought up the fact that during that overnight stay, Cazares went through Thomas' bathroom trash and found used condoms. Cazares said Thomas claimed they belonged to a girlfriend of hers who brought a man over to the house. The defense claimed Cazares believed that story, but the prosecution claimed that's when Cazares' rage and jealousy began.

      Cazares said he left the next morning on good terms and planned to meet her again that night after he got off work. The defendant told the jurors Thomas called him that night between 8 and 9 p.m. and told him she was going out with friends. Cazares said he went home that night and tried to call Thomas repeatedly but she didn't answer. He said he did not go to any bars that night, but witnesses earlier in the week testified that he did go to a couple of Hannibal bars where they say he spotted Thomas with friends.

      Cazares claimed that on the morning of Saturday, February 28th, he went to Thomas' apartment and knocked on the door. He said the door was unlocked so he walked in when no one answered. He told the court he found Thomas and Epley sleeping in Thomas' bedroom.

      The defendant said he looked into the children's bedrooms and when he saw they were not there, he walked into the kitchen to grab a knife. Cazares said he walked back into the bedroom, pulled back the sheets and began stabbing Epley several times first, then proceeded to stab Thomas.

      Cazares told jurors, quote, "I just remember the rage inside of myself that I couldn't control. I never meant to do any harm, I just felt rage." end quote. The defendant then said he took Thomas' car, started driving and called his mother in Mexico, his sister in Florida and his boss. Cazares said he told all three what he had just done and that he planned to take his own life. Cazares said he was talked out of that plan and decided to turn himself into police instead.

      Victims' family members declined comment after the verdict was read, but there were lots of tears and hugs outside of the courtroom afterwards.

      Sentencing is set for June 20th.

      Cazares is eligible for up to life in prison.

      The defense plans to appeal.

      Click here to read more from The Quincy Herald-Whig's Rodney Hart.


      The jury has came to a verdict in the case of Hannibal murder suspect Manuel Cazares.

      He was found guilty of two counts of second degree murder and armed criminal action for the murders of Amanda Thomas and Carl Epley.

      Rajah Maples has been in the courtroom all day and joined us live via the phone with more details.

      Jurors left the court room around 2:50 p.m. to begin deliberations. It took them slightly over two hours to come reach their verdict.

      The prosecution claimed that Cazares' rage started the night before the murder when he found used condoms in Thomas' bathroom trash.

      The defense said the deaths were caused by blind rage and asked the jury to find Cazares guilty of involuntary man slaughter in the first degree.

      Manuel Cazares took the stand Thursday morning as defense attorneys questioned him about the night of the double murder.

      Cazares said, "I felt rage in my body. I just remember the rage inside of myself that I couldn't control."

      He admitted to stabbing Amanda Thomas and Carl Epley.

      Witnesses, mostly Hannibal police officers and investigators, were called to the stand Wednesday testified Cazares turned himself in to the police department after the murders.

      Cazares will be sentenced on June 20.

      Click here to read more from The Quincy Herald-Whig's Rodney Hart.

      Rajah Maples will provide more details from the scene of the trial, so check this story later and watch KHQA's Late News at 10 p.m. and Tri States This Morning on Friday.