Jury convicts man of killing 6 family members in Gage Park in 2016
CHICAGO - A Cook County jury Wednesday found a man guilty in the deaths of six members of his extended family — including two children — at their Gage Park home, a case that prosecutors said was the result of a robbery that "spiraled out of control."
Jurors deliberated more than 10 hours before finding Diego Uribe, 28, guilty on all six counts of first-degree murder.
Uribe’s defense attorneys argued there was no way he could have killed all of them by himself. They acknowledged Uribe was present but claimed the murders were committed by a group of masked men looking for money who threatened Uribe into staying quiet.
"How could one person have overpowered six people fighting for their lives and killed them in such a brutal fashion?" Assistant Public Defender Margaret Domin asked jurors in her closing argument. "It doesn’t make sense."
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Prosecutors countered that it was because of Uribe’s relationship to the victims that he was able to carry out the killings without anyone escaping or calling police.
"The reason that this happened is because of trust," Assistant State’s Attorney Patrick Waller said. "Because he was family, he was able to do that."
"It’s never going to make perfect logical sense, but the bottom line is he wanted money," Waller added.
Prosecutors had a strong case: They played clips of Uribe confessing to detectives and said Uribe’s DNA matched blood found at the crime scene and his cellphone records showed he had traveled to the area and then home on the day of the attack.
But the most damning witness at the trial was Uribe’s former girlfriend, who testified in chilling detail that she was present as he shot, bludgeoned or stabbed each victim one by one.
Jafeth Ramos, 25, said the couple was on their way home from a medical appointment on Feb. 2, 2016, when Uribe showed her a "cowboy gun" and told her he had "a job" to do at the home his aunt, Maria Martinez, shared with her children, brother and parents in the 5700 block of South California Avenue.
At the small, brick bungalow, Uribe and Ramos were offered food, but Uribe declined and asked to speak privately with his aunt.
In her small apartment located in the home’s attic, Uribe then held his aunt at gunpoint and demanded money before shooting her repeatedly when they struggled over the weapon, Ramos said.
When his aunt’s brother, Noe Martinez Jr., went to investigate, Uribe beat him unconscious with the gun until it broke and then knelt on his neck, prosecutors said.
When the siblings’ mother, Rosaura Martinez, 58, threatened to call police, Uribe kicked her down a flight of stairs and stabbed her dozens of times with a kitchen knife, before forcing the two children — 13-year-old Leonard Cruz and 10-year-old Alexis Cruz — to help search for valuables.
Prosecutors said the robbery netted Uribe $250 in cash, some jewelry, an Xbox and the contents of a piggy bank.
Ramos’ voice wavered as she recalled Uribe following Alexis to a basement bedroom where he stabbed the boy repeatedly in the abdomen and then cornered Leonardo in the living room and fatally stabbed him as well while the boy begged for his life.
The couple then waited for Noe Martinez Sr., 62, to return to the home from picking up food, and Uribe stabbed him as well, Ramos said.
Uribe’s lawyers said Ramos got a "sweetheart deal" from prosecutors that included pleading guilty to a reduced charge of armed robbery with a suggested 25-year prison term in return for her testimony.
Prosecutors reminded jurors Ramos had confessed to detectives months after the murders and long before there was a deal.
"What could possibly be her motive to lie?" Waller asked.