Guilty verdict in 1998 Aurora double murder
By Dan Campana For The Beacon-News January 31, 2013 12:16PM
Jaime Diaz, 33, formerly of Aurora, was convicted in January 2013 in the 1998 murders of Brendon Anderson of Geneva and Elias Calcano of Aurora.
Updated: March 2, 2013 12:06PM
ST. CHARLES -- Jurors late Thursday convicted a former Aurora man with the 1998 murders of Brendon Anderson and Elias Calcano.
Jaime Diaz wasn’t charged in the case until 2008 when DNA evidence on a beer bottle connected him to the cold case killings. He now faces a mandatory life sentence for the pair of murder convictions.
Jurors in the double-murder trial spent about three hours deliberating after listening to lengthy closing arguments centered on the reliability and credibility of the key witness to the murders.
Jason Peterson took the stand earlier this week to describe how Diaz opened fire inside Anderson’s Cadillac on a March night nearly 15 years ago, killing the two friends. But Diaz’s defense heavily challenged whether Peterson should be believed because of how his story changed over the years. Prosecutors told jurors they didn’t need to rely solely on Peterson because other witnesses to events that night helped paint a picture of Diaz’s actions.
Diaz faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted of murdering Anderson and Calcano. Their bodies were found in an Aurora alley. Aside from being shot from behind, Calcano was severely beaten, run over by the car and doused with gasoline. Anderson’s body was badly burned after a gun shot went through the base of his brain, likely killing him within minutes, a forensic pathologist testified Thursday.
While the horrific nature of the deaths was not disputed, who did it became the focal point of closing arguments.
“This is not a contest of how it was done. This is a contest of who did it,” Assistant State’s Attorney Greg Sams said.
The state relied heavily on Peterson’s account of the shootings, which included hearing one gun shot and then seeing a second one fired by Diaz at Calcano. Peterson also detailed how Diaz later went back to the scene with a gas can.
Assistant Public Defender Greg Brown attacked Peterson’s testimony throughout his closing argument, suggesting he offered a string of lies to investigators in various interviews over the years. Peterson even told police he knew nothing about the killings after being given assurances his information would not be used against him, Brown told jurors, noting Peterson has not been guaranteed immunity from prosecution.
“We know he’s willing to lie. He got up there (the witness stand) and told you he lied,” Brown said. “That’s evidence of his character.”
Brown was incredulous with the notion Peterson had no idea of what went on in Anderson’s Cadillac before the shooting and was in such fear of Diaz shooting him next that he agreed to go for another car ride with Diaz later the same night. Although he didn’t directly blame the murders on Peterson, Brown peppered his argument with subtle questions about how the killings might have occurred while saying Peterson had “bias and motive” to keep prosecutors off his back.
Sams quipped that he didn’t have Brown’s “crystal ball” to see what happened the night of the murders, but said Diaz’s actions made it clear he was acting with “consciousness of guilt” when he bought gas, changed clothes and returned to his girlfriend’s house to clean blood off his shoes. Diaz also used threats to make sure no one told police what happened.
“He’s been trying to manipulate this case for 15 years,” Sams said.
Diaz did not testify on his behalf. The entirety of the defense case was Diaz’s mother testifying that her son has always been left handed, a point used to counter Peterson’s claim Diaz fired the gun with his right hand. The defense also disputed the value of Diaz’s DNA being found on a beer bottle inside the car.
“Don’t give it some kind of iconic status,” Brown said. “In what way does DNA on that bottle establish who shot these two?”