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Aurora man gets life sentence for 1998 double murder

Jaime Diaz / Phofrom Kane County State's Attorney's office

Jaime Diaz / Photo from Kane County State's Attorney's office

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Updated: October 15, 2013 6:49AM

Sentencing Jaime Diaz of Aurora to life in prison for killing two men 15 years ago might have been a legal formality, but it marked an emotional milestone for Rob Anderson who has been “living in grey” since his son, Brendon, died.

“The crime of murder doesn’t create just one victim. ... Death’s destruction casts a net over many,” Anderson said during an emotional statement Wednesday. “There’s no finish line or logical conclusion to our grief. It is forever who we are.

“As some may think, this does not bring closure, but the door is less open,” he said.

Elias Calcano, of Aurora, and Brendon Anderson, of Geneva, were shot to death, their bodies found in an Aurora alley, in March 1998. Aside from being shot from behind, Calcano was severely beaten, run over by a car and doused with gasoline. Anderson’s body was badly burned after a gunshot went through the base of his brain, likely killing him within minutes, a forensic pathologist testified at trial.

It would be 10 years before prosecutors linked Diaz to the killings and filed murder charges against him. A jury needed only about three hours on Jan. 31 to convict Diaz.

Rob Anderson told Judge Karen Simpson and those gathered in her courtroom that it had been 15 years, five months and 26 days between the day his son died and Wednesday’s hearing. That represented nearly a quarter of his life, and nearly all of Brendon’s son’s life. Anderson read a statement from his grandson, Alex, who was only 10 months old when Brendon died.

“I have had to grow up not knowing what it felt like to have a dad,” Anderson said, reading from Alex’s statement. “Anytime someone asks me what happened to my dad, I tear up and get a tight feeling in my chest and have to tell them he was brutally murdered. Even a life sentence in prison wouldn’t be remotely close to the pain of losing my dad.”

The elder Anderson spoke fondly of Brendon’s basketball skills, his soft hands and how he was nicknamed “Wailin’ Brendon” when he was born.

“The boy had lungs,” he recalled.

Rob Anderson’s described his and his family’s pain throughout the long journey since Brendon’s death, including stress “ravaging” his wife during the trial. Anderson said a trip to the grocery store once brought him to his knees after seeing simple things, such as chocolate milk, that served as another reminder Brendon was forever gone. He also recalled being overcome with tears when he identified Brendon’s body at the morgue by the initials “BPA” tattooed on Brendon’s torso.

“His cold, still hand stuck out from underneath the sheet like he was saying, ‘Sorry for all this trouble dad.’ Bren had such soft hands,” Anderson said. “Bending down, I placed it to my cheek, told Brendon I loved him, and then kissed my son goodbye.

“It’s a sadness that does not end,” Anderson said.

In one of the more pointed moments of Anderson’s statement, he spoke directly to Diaz, calling him by his first name, to question how Diaz could rationalize his actions, but also acknowledge he harbors no hatred for Diaz.

“Until the day I pass, I will never understand how you deemed it your right to murder and mutilate two men. Or, how you rationalized those depraved, immoral actions,” Anderson said. “I don’t hate you. I don’t wish evil upon you. I haven’t allowed you to create those emotions in me for many years.

“This may sound odd, but I wish you well ... I hope you find purpose to your life.”

Diaz, who earlier in the hearing tried again to offer up information to counter evidence against him, took the stand for a disjointed statement of his own. Diaz thanked his family and supporters, recalled watching cartoons with his son when the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks occurred and to say his upcoming appeal is not intended to disrespect the Andersons.

“I’m not insensitive to how Mr. Anderson feels. That’s a tough loss to go through. That’s heartbreaking,” Diaz said.

Diaz offered no apologies for or acknowledgements of his role in the murders, but said he “didn’t doubt for a minute” what jurors were going to do.

“I feel like I’ve been used as a substitute ... for who should really be sitting here,” Diaz said.

Prosecutors offered a statement from Calcano’s stepfather for Simpson to consider, although no members of his family were in attendance.

“We grieve his death as well,” Anderson said of Calcano.

During breaks in the hearing, Anderson and his family exchanged greetings with State’s Attorney Joe McMahon and Aurora police investigator Greg Spayth, who stuck with the case through its long duration.

McMahon, in a statement, praised the efforts of Spayth for his “hard work and perseverance” as well as Assistant State’s Attorneys Greg Sams and Deborah Lang, who prosecuted Diaz.

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