Mid-Trial, Judge Declares Mass. Murder Suspect Not Guilty

Jose Urena had been on trial for the 2017 New Year's Eve killing of 22-year-old Jeffrie Santana-Peguero, of Lawrence

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A Massachusetts man who faced life prison if convicted of first-degree murder in the killing of his estranged wife's lover has walked out of court a free man after a judge declared him not guilty.

Salem Superior Court Judge Thomas Dreschler's directed verdict Tuesday came a week into the trial of Jose Urena, 51, and just before closing statements, The Salem News reported.

Drechsler said there was insufficient evidence presented at trial.

Urena was charged with killing Jeffrie Santana-Peguero, 22, of Lawrence, on New Year's Eve in 2017. Urena's estranged wife was dating Santana-Peguero and was pregnant with his child, authorities said.

Urena's attorney, James Budreau, filed the motion for a directed verdict.

"While the victim may have been the cause of his marital problems, there is no evidence that Mr. Urena ever threatened Mr. Peguero or otherwise demonstrated a desire to injure him," Budreau said.

The Essex district attorney's office issued a single sentence on the verdict.

"Unfortunately, in these circumstances, the Commonwealth does not have any right of appeal," the prosecutor said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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