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Woman admits role in fatal porch stabbing over meth deal gone sour



This news story was published on September 19, 2012.
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Emily Gurnon, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn. –

Maria Luna reached the part of her story where two men she was with began attacking another man. The victim owed them for drugs, she said. Then, from her seat in a courtroom witness stand, she burst into tears.

“I heard something break,” said Luna, 48. “I turned, they were on top of him.”

Luna was recounting what she said happened shortly before 6 p.m. March 18, when Andrew Braun was beaten and stabbed to death at his home in the 700 block of East Lawson Avenue in St. Paul.

Police found a hammer, a samurai sword and a bayonet at the murder scene.

Luna gave her statement in Ramsey County District Court on Tuesday, Sept. 18, as a part of a guilty plea to charges of aiding an offender as an accomplice after the fact in the murder. The mother of three grown children also pleaded guilty to first-degree drug possession from a September 2011 traffic stop.

She is to be sentenced Nov. 7, and will receive somewhere between seven and nearly 10 years in prison, according to terms of the plea agreement. In exchange for the plea, a charge of second-degree murder will be dropped, and Luna must testify truthfully at the trial of co-defendant Santana Valdez, 36.

Answering questions Tuesday from Ramsey County prosecutor David Miller, Luna admitted that she and Valdez, who lived together, were being investigated in 2011 for alleged drug dealing.

On several occasions in March, she, Valdez and another man, Carlos Yobani Flores Amador, visited Braun “to get the money

that he owed for methamphetamine,” Luna said. The money, $12,000, was to be paid to another man, whom Luna referred to as “Truncas.”

“Truncas” was identified in other court documents as Fidel Orozco Cibrian, 37. He has pleaded guilty to first-degree conspiracy to sell drugs and will be sentenced Nov. 1.

She did the talking, since she was the only one who spoke both English and Spanish, she said. But Braun kept putting them off.

“He’d just say, ‘Wait for me two days; I don’t have the money yet,’ ” Luna said.

The day of the murder, the three went to Braun’s house in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood about 10:30 a.m. Braun told them to come back between 4 and 5 p.m., Luna said.

About 4:45 p.m., they returned. Braun was in the back yard, and suggested they go inside. They entered through the front door, Luna said.

She was chatting with Braun, saying, “How are you,” she said. As they walked in, he told her, “Don’t fall down again,” as she had tripped on something earlier.

“I didn’t even get to ask him, ‘Do you have the money?’ ” when the two men began attacking Braun, Luna said. They hit and stabbed him with a number of weapons, including two BB guns that Luna had bought previously.

The men stuffed the BB pistols into a bag with cookies and yogurt that Luna was carrying, she said.

As they walked along a wooded path, she dumped out the bag’s contents, she said.

Miller asked Luna if the men searched Braun’s house for valuables. “Santana was looking through all the drawers,” she said. “I saw him go upstairs when Carlos was still on top of Andy.” They didn’t find anything, she said.

Braun was found by his girlfriend about 1:40 a.m. the next day, lying in “a bloody mess” on his house porch.

The three defendants were arrested.

Luna also pleaded guilty to drug possession.

She and Santana were stopped by the State Patrol in St. Paul on Sept. 28, 2011, Luna admitted Tuesday. During the stop, troopers found methamphetamine on both her and Valdez. The drugs were tested at a lab in Chicago, Miller said.

“Santana gave it to me,” Luna said. “I put it in my pants.”

Amador, 38, pleaded guilty July 24 and is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 26.

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