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Mother of Defendant Intoxicated at Sentencing Hearing; Ordered into Police Custody

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FAYETTEVILLE — The sentencing phase in the trial of two Fayetteville gang members was scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, but was delayed more than two hours because the first witness called by the defense came to court drunk.

Monday, a jury found Eric Queen, 21, and Francisco "Paco" Tirado, 18, guilty of all 14 counts each faced.

Paco Tirado's mother was to testify as a character witness to help the defense persuade jurors that her son deserves life in prison, not the death penalty.

At first, deputies refused to let Alice Tirado into the courtroom because she was intoxicated -- more than three times the legal limit for driving.

"I haven't slept in three days. I don't eat, I don't sleep," she said.

Outside of the jury's presence, Alice Tirado took the stand so attorneys could determine whether she was capable of testifying.

"Sir, I'm here and I'm as capable as I'm ever going to be. And you locking me up is not going to change anything," Tirado told the court.

Saying she "has been drunk since the boy was locked up," Judge William Gore Jr. ordered her into police custody so she could sober up and testify on Wednesday.

The defense wants jurors to hear about Alice Tirado's 20 years of alcohol abuse.

In opening arguments, Paco Tirado's attorneys told the jury while his dysfunctional upbringing is no excuse for murder, it led to the killings of Tracy Lambert and Susan Moore.

"Our evidence will show you that when you decide whether somebody is going to be removed from the human community or being sentenced to life in prison without parole, that under the facts of this particular case, and given Paco's background, that life in prison without parole will be the appropriate punishment," said defense attorney Carl Ivarsson.

While Alice Tirado did not get to testify, other family members told jurors about the gang member's childhood.

Tirado's father, who has not seen his son since he was a baby, says he was never aware of his son's criminal ways.

"Being so naive or ignorant, my wrong decision of leaving him with her brought him to this and it's my fault," said Edgar Tirado.

During Tuesday's proceedings, Paco Tirado and Eric Queen remained in shackles.

The judge ordered the convicted murderers to be placed in the leg irons after bailiffs notified the judge that after Monday's verdict, Queen gave them difficulty when they returned him to a holding cell. The bailiffs also say they felt threatened by Paco Tirado, who was practicing martial arts moves in his holding cell.

The defense hopes to wrap up its testimony Tuesday afternoon, with sentencing possibly by the end of the week. The sentencing hearing for Queen will follow.

They could receive either life in prison or the death penalty.

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Melissa Buscher, Reporter
Michael Joyner, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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