Aurora Police Investigators retrieve potential evidence from the scene of the double murder of Brendon Anderson and Elias Calcano. | Beacon News File Photo
Updated: March 1, 2013 7:56PM
ST. CHARLES — “Buzzed” on booze and pot, Jason Peterson sat slouched against a car door in a driveway just off an Aurora alley in March 1998.
He didn’t know the two men sitting in the front seats of the black Cadillac and wasn’t paying attention to their conversation with his friend, Jaime Diaz, who sat beside Peterson in the back seat.
“I heard a loud gunshot. I immediately turned to my left. I saw Diaz reaching over towards the passenger,” Peterson, now 34, testified Monday, noting Diaz had a gun in his right hand. “Then he shoots the passenger.”
In his opening statement to jurors, Assistant State’s Attorney Greg Sams described Peterson as a pivotal witness to the murders of Brendon Anderson and Elias Calcano 15 years ago. Diaz shot each man from behind, beat Calcano in the head, dumped their bodies outside the car belonging to Anderson and drove over Calcano, Sams said.
“But, the defendant wasn’t done yet,” Sams added. “This defendant returned to the scene and poured gasoline on the bodies.”
Diaz is charged with multiple counts of murder and faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted of killing the pair. Sams said the case against Diaz is built on testimony from Peterson and several others who were with Anderson and Calcano the night they were killed and those who attended a party Diaz apparently invited them to attend. Sams also pointed to DNA test results from 2008 that connected Diaz to a beer bottle found in the back seat of Anderson’s car.
Diaz attorney, Assistant Public Defender Greg Brown, used his opening remarks to immediately question Peterson’s credibility. Brown pointed out that Peterson, among others, did not go to police with information. When police ultimately went to Peterson about the case — which was considered a cold case until Diaz was charged in 2008 —– he said he didn’t know anything, but is now cooperating with prosecutors to protect himself, Brown offered.
“It was a tragedy and it shouldn’t have happened,” Brown said of the killings. “The ultimate question is did Jamie do it?”
Anderson, of North Aurora, and Calcano, of Aurora, were two 21-year-old friends hitting the bars and clubs in the hours before their deaths, Sams said. They went to the home of Diaz’s then-girlfriend, and eventually spent an hour talking with her and her sister in Anderson’s car. At some point, Diaz and another man showed up and saw the four talking. Diaz then invited everyone to a get together at another location. Sams said Diaz sent the girls in another car, while got in the back seat of Anderson’s car.
Peterson, testifying after a lengthy jury selection process, explained how Diaz approached him to suggest he go for a ride with him in Anderson’s Cadillac even though Peterson had never met Anderson or Calcano.
The group stopped in one alley, where Diaz talked briefly with a man, before heading to the second alley where the shooting took place, Peterson said. Rob Anderson, Brendon’s father, closed his eyes and took several deep breaths as Peterson described the two men slumped over after the shooting.
After running back to the party, Peterson “grabbed a beer and tried to act as calm as possible.” He later rode with Diaz and a woman to a gas station before Diaz went back to the Cadillac with a gas can.
Peterson is expected to return to the witness stand on Tuesday.