Nephew testifies how Montano wanted ‘to disappear the body’
By Dan Campana For Sun-Times Media October 29, 2013 3:56PM
Aurelio Montano, 55, of Aurora, is charged in the 1990 death of his wife, Guadalupe Maria Montano, whose body has not been found. Montano is already serving life in prison for ordering the murders of a man and woman.
Updated: October 29, 2013 7:11PM
ST. CHARLES — Nearly 18 years to the date since anyone had seen Maria Guadalupe Montano, an Aurora police detective handed Aurelio Montano an arrest warrant charging him with his wife’s murder.
“His facial expression changed. He leaned back and crossed his arms,” Aurora Det. Guillermo Trujillo said of the June 1998 meeting, adding Montano responded by saying, “‘This does not interest me.’”
Trujillo’s recounting of serving Montano with the murder warrant highlighted the second day of testimony in Montano’s trial. He is accused of strangling and dismembering his wife in 1990 and then burying her body. He has pleaded not guilty. Maria’s body has never been found.
Trujillo and Sgt. Matt Thomas were assigned to the case in 2007 when investigators developed new information on what happened to Maria. Both men were present during a forensic dig at a Naperville horse farm in December 2007 when remnants of a rug and a piece of twine or string were unearthed. Montano’s daughter, Maribel Montano Barajas, identified the rug as one that had been in the family home prior to Maria’s disappearance, but was not there when she returned to the house on the July 1990 day after last seeing her mother.
Montano’s sister also confirmed the rug was one she knew from Aurelio’s home. Prosecutors said Monday that Aurelio Montano brought his sister to the house where she saw Maria dead on the rug with rope around her neck. He rolled Maria’s body in the rug and then buried it at the farm where other members of the Montano family worked and lived at the time, prosecutors allege. The same rug had been discovered during a 1994 search of the property, but Aurora police did not believe it to have any connection to Maria’s case and returned it to the soil where it remained for the next 13 years, according to testimony.
Earlier Tuesday, two Montano nephews testified about how fear of their uncle and the possibility of jail time kept them from going to police for many years after Maria vanished.
Roberto Montano, a 48-year-old landscaper, recalled Aurelio Montano showing up, on the day Maria was last seen, at the horse farm with his sister, something considered unusual by family members since Aurelio had been somewhat estranged from his sister. Aurelio came looking for his brother, Roberto’s father, Juan.
“He needed my dad. He wanted to talk with him. Very serious,” Roberto Montano said of Aurelio, adding that his tone was “a little demanding.”
After driving with his uncle to pick up Juan and returning to the farm, Roberto never saw the pair again that day. In a conversation with his father a week or so later, Roberto said he learned what had happened to Maria.
“He told me he would show me where they buried Guadalupe,” Roberto said, using the name Maria was referred to by the family.
A few weeks later, Roberto confronted Aurelio, asking him why he had killed his wife. Aurelio replied Maria was cheating on him.
“He started crying,” Roberto said.
In yet another conversation some months later, Aurelio told Roberto “he could rent a wood chipper ... to disappear the body,” Roberto recalled. Concerned, Roberto eventually told Aurelio to stay away from his family. However, in a conversation in late 1991 or early 1992, Aurelio asked Roberto for help.
“He needs me to dig the body out. He wants help from me,” Roberto told jurors. “I said no. [Aurelio] was kind of mad ... he said ‘you’re already involved.’”
In 2007, Roberto showed police the location on the farm where his father said Maria had been buried. Assistant Public Defender Brenda Willett, who poked at Roberto’s version of events in comparison to his 2008 testimony, suggested he didn’t offer everything he knew until after prosecutors agreed not to use the information against him. Willett used a similar approach during questioning of Arturo Montano, the nephew enlisted by Aurelio to help dispose of a bag that he said contained Maria’s hands and head.
Arturo said his uncle sought him out at some point after Maria’s disappearance and the two drank in Aurelio’s garage when he pulled out the plastic grocery bag.
“He said here is the head and the hands. It was a little bit heavy ... smelled like a very bad smell, like a dead animal,” Arturo said through a translator. “He told me to put it in the car and get in the car. At that moment, I was very afraid for my security, so I did it.”
The pair drove east on Interstate 88 and then reversed course before exiting at Route 59, Arturo said. The pair ended up near a West Chicago subdivision where Arturo threw the bag “kind of hard” toward the side of the road.
“He told me he had killed my aunt Lupe because she had been unfaithful,” Arturo told jurors.
On cross-examination, Willett questioned why Arturo waited until 2008 to explain what happened with his uncle so many years earlier. When he did talk, he too had a deal in place to keep his information from being used against him, Willett said.
“He had involved me in a certain way. I was afraid I’d end up in jail,” Arturo said of his reason for not sharing details sooner.
Wednesday’s testimony is expected to include information on the findings of a cadaver dog search of the horse farm property in 2007. Jurors could begin deliberations as early as Thursday.