Jurors view graphic crime scene, autopsy photos in Gage Park murder trial
CHICAGO - Jurors viewed graphic crime scene and autopsy photos Thursday as the trial of a man accused of killing six members of his family in Gage Park continued with a second day of testimony.
Diego Uribe, 28, faces multiple counts of murder in the slayings. He allegedly shot, beat or stabbed various members of the family after demanding money from his aunt, Maria Martinez, on Feb. 2, 2016, at her family’s home in the 5700 block of South California Avenue.
The autopsy photos shown to jurors depicted the bodies of the two youngest victims — Alexis Cruz, 10, and Leonardo Cruz, 13. Several jurors appeared to struggle to look when they were shown on a monitor in Cook County Judge Carol Howard’s seventh-floor courtroom at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.
Alexis sustained seven stab wounds to his chest, and his hands showed evidence of defensive injuries, Assistant Medical Examiner Lauren Woertz testified. Leonardo had been stabbed and slashed, causing nearly two dozen injuries, many to his head and neck, Woertz said.
When Alexis’ body was shown on the screen in the courtroom, Uribe closed his eyes and occasionally dabbed a tissue against his face.
The boys’ bodies were discovered two days after the attacks when police conducted a well-being check at their Gage Park home after their uncle, with whom they lived, failed to show up at work for several days. The bodies of their mother, Maria Martinez, her brother Noe Martinez Jr., and grandparents, Noe Martinez Sr. and Rose Martinez were discovered at the same time.
Uribe and his girlfriend were taken into custody after DNA and cellphone data allegedly indicated their involvement, and prosecutors have said both made admissions to detectives while in custody.
On Wednesday, Uribe’s former girlfriend, Jafeth Ramos, testified for nearly two hours about allegedly witnessing Uribe commit the killings.
Ramos said she helped collect items of value from the home and didn’t call the police or try to leave, despite acknowledging she had multiple opportunities to do so.
Ramos, who was previously charged in the slayings, pleaded guilty earlier this year to a reduced charge of armed robbery in a deal reached for her testimony that will include prosecutors recommending a 25-year prison term at her sentencing hearing after Uribe’s trial.
In opening statements, Uribe’s attorneys said Ramos got a "sweetheart deal" in exchange for testifying against Uribe and asked jurors to set aside the disturbing images they would see to focus on the facts in the case.
Uribe, his attorneys argued, could not have killed all six family members alone. His lawyers have acknowledged he was present at the home, but suggested the killers were a group of masked men who demanded money and threatened the lives of Uribe, Ramos and their families to get them to stay quiet.
The defense filed a motion this year to introduce hearsay statements to jurors from a former federal informant who claimed he overheard that the Juarez cartel was sending assassins to Chicago to go after Maria Martinez’s husband, also the father of Alexis and Leonardo, after he allegedly made off with a $3.5 million drug shipment, according to court filings.
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The motion was denied.
During cross-examination Thursday of Chicago Police Detective Nicholas Evangelides, defense attorney Brian Walsh asked if police and federal agents had met with a man with the same name as the informant in Mexico during the investigation.
Evangelides confirmed they had, but Walsh didn’t question the detective about it further.