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$2M bond for man facing charges in Kan. woman's 2003 death, sex crimes, life insurance scams
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) ' Bond was set at $2 million Thursday for a man charged with murder in the 2003 death of a Kansas woman whose drowning was initially ruled an accident, along with several other charges including rape and child sexual exploitation.
Daniel U. Perez, 52, appeared in court via video hookup from the Sedgwick County jail on 39 criminal counts, including premeditated murder in the death of Patricia Hughes. Investigators said Hughes and Perez were among a group of people living in commune-like settings, and that the group is connected to several deaths.
Investigators had initially believed the 26-year-old mother accidently drowned while trying to rescue her 2-year-old daughter from a residential pool at a home in Valley Center. Authorities reclassified her death as a homicide in September amid evidence indicating the group was living off life insurance policies.
Two criminal complaints unsealed Thursday show that Perez is facing numerous charges, including one count of sexual exploitation of an 8-year-old child and 11 counts each of rape and sodomy. He also is charged with making a criminal threat as well as several counts each of aggravated assault involving a rifle and making false statements to obtain credit from a Wichita car dealership.
He also is accused of making false statements on life insurance applications in 2006.
Sedgwick County District Judge Warren Wilbert set bond at $2 million bond pending a preliminary hearing Feb. 2. The charges were initially filed in September but had been kept under seal while Perez finished serving a federal sentence for identity theft in Oklahoma before being extradited to Kansas to face the state charges.
Perez's court-appointed attorney, Alice Osburn, did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press for comment.
The group of people lived together in at least three different states, either in one large home or in houses in close proximity, and was living in a "compound" in Valley Center at the time of Hughes' death, according to an attorney for Hughes' parents, who were granted legal guardianship of their now 11-year-old granddaughter.
Hughes' death is among at least 10 deaths linked to the group, according to court documents in the guardianship case. The girl's father, Brian Hughes, was killed in 2006 while changing a tire, and two years later the girl's guardian, Jennifer Hutson, was killed in a traffic accident.
The girl's maternal grandparents won custody in 2010, after federal and state investigators alerted them that the child could be in "imminent danger."