Commune leader testifies in his own defense in murder trial

(AP Photo/The Wichita Eagle, Travis Heying)

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The leader of a Kansas commune that lived off the life insurance payouts of its dead members has taken the stand in his own defense.

Fifty-five year old Daniel Perez testified Thursday about his time in Texas where he met the woman he is now accused of killing. He is charged with first-degree premeditated murder in the 2003 drowning death of 26-year-old Patricia Hughes at the group’s compound near Wichita.

Other charges include rape, sodomy, criminal threat, lying on life insurance applications and credit applications and sexual exploitation of a child.

Prosecutors say the group’s wanderings across several states over a 15-year period were marked by sexual violence and the deaths of six people. His defense attorney says Perez didn’t kill Hughes, and called the other deaths coincidental.

 

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