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Opening statements expected today in kidnapping case

BRADENTON — Attorneys are expected to make opening statements today in the trial of a man accused of kidnapping at gunpoint 13-year-old Clay Moore from his Parrish bus stop more than two years ago.

Jury selection for the trial continued into the evening Monday and opening statements are expected to begin today once a jury is seated, according to 12th Circuit Court spokesman Dennis Menendez. Vincente Ignacio Beltran-Moreno, 24, faces life in prison if convicted of armed kidnapping.

Sheriff’s detectives say Beltran-Moreno forced Clay into his truck from the boy’s bus stop Feb. 23, 2007 and took him to a wooded area in rural East Manatee. There he bound the teen to a tree with duct tape and took off, according to sheriff’s reports. Clay said he cut himself free with a safety pin and was recovered unharmed.

The ensuing international manhunt attracted national media attention as sheriff’s detectives and FBI agents tracked Beltran-Moreno to Mexico. He eventually returned across the border to the United States, turning himself in Texas, according to sheriff’s reports.

On Monday, attorneys spent the day questioning prospective jurors whether they had prior knowledge of the case. Prosecutor Brian Iten also questioned the jury pool about their beliefs in DNA and fingerprint forensics, both of which are expected to be presented as evidence during the trial.

Iten said he expected to call dozens of witnesses, including Clay, his schoolmates and Beltran-Moreno’s girlfriend, who has already been sentenced to prison for accessory after the fact to armed kidnapping in connection with Clay’s abduction.

Detectives say Ana Pureco Tinoco, 22, drove Beltran-Moreno to Mexico after he abducted Moore, according to reports.

Robert Napper, reporter, can be reached at 708-7024.