Court upholds Perez verdict
By Chris Strunk
Last Updated: June 29, 2017
The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed the convictions of a former north Sedgwick County man who was found guilty in 2015 of 28 charges, including first-degree murder and rape at his "Angels Landing" compound north of Kechi.
Daniel Perez will continue to serve a sentence of life in prison. A jury convicted him of the 2003 murder of Patricia Hughes. Hughes' body was found in a pool at the compound and her death was ruled an accident until federal law enforcement authorities were tipped off and a witness stepped forward to say the story of Hughes' death was a fabrication.
The trial lasted nearly two weeks.
Perez's attorney from the Kansas Appellate Defender Office argued before the supreme court that certain testimony from an investigator should not have been admissible during the trial in Sedgwick County District Court. Perez also argued that the district court should not have denied his request to instruct the jury on assisting suicide as a lesser included offense of first-degree premeditated murder and that the court should not have allowed prior crime evidence. Perez also challenged an instruction that the judge gave to the jury.
In a unanimous decision written by Justice Eric Rosen, the court concluded that any error in the admission of certain testimony was harmless, that the facts of the case did not support an assisting suicide instruction and that the court did not abuse its discretion when it concluded the probative value of prior crime evidence outweighed any potential prejudice.
Perez, who used several aliases, including Lou Castro, was accused of convincing a group of adults and children to live with him at his compound. He murdered Hughes for the life insurance money, falsifying a number of documents. Prosecutors also said Perez sexually assaulted and exploited the group members' children, including two girls who went on to graduate from Valley Center High School.
During the trial, witnesses testified that Perez claimed to have special powers and that he was a "seer." Witnesses said that there were at least three other mysterious deaths of "family" members resulting in large insurance payouts.