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Witnesses recall gasoline smell on night of ’98 Aurora murders

Jaime Diaz 33 formerly Aurorwas convicted January 2013 1998  murders BrendAndersGenevElias Calcano Aurora.

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.

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Updated: March 2, 2013 6:25AM

ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP — The overwhelming smell of gasoline in the car, combined with the accelerant found on the clothes of two victims, could tie Jaime Diaz to the March 1998 shooting deaths of Brendon Anderson and Elias Calcano in Aurora.

When Diaz and Jason Peterson returned to a house party that day, “they smelled like gasoline. It was everywhere,” said Nora Babbic.

Babbic testified in Kane County Court Tuesday that she and her sister had been sitting at that house playing cards, smoking and drinking when the men returned.

Anderson, of North Aurora, and Calcano, of Aurora, had been shot in an alley off of East New York Street. Both of their bodies were doused with gasoline and set on fire. Calcano was also run over by a car, leaving tire treads on his white pants and orange T-shirt, police said.

Another witness, Lisa Gaither testified Tuesday that Diaz had told her to go pick up Babbic and her sister and bring them to the party that evening. Then 17, she was one of the few in the group with both a driver’s license and a car, Gaither said.

At some point, Diaz returned to the party after being gone for at least an hour. He left again, along with Peterson, and asked Gaither for a ride. When she went outside, Gaither said, Diaz was standing by her car holding a gas can.

Diaz directed her where to drive, and had her stop in the alley. The men got out and she waited, Gaither said. When the two came back, there was an overwhelming smell of gasoline and no gas can, she said.

Gaither admitted Tuesday that her story had changed over the years. She spent time in prison after a Class X conviction for selling cocaine. After telling police that she was not there the night of the murders, she ended up going back to the Dwight Women’s Prison for a year-long stretch, Gaither said.

Peterson testified that while he was offered a deal to testify, he would be breaking his street gang’s code of silence. Peterson said he left the gang in 2000.

The code of silence was the reason he did not tell police what he knew 15 years ago, Peterson testified — that he was there when Diaz shot the two men, and that he’d not only wiped down a door handle, but later disposed of the gun used in the shooting.

“Your testimony puts you in danger?” asked Greg Sams, Kane County assistant state’s attorney.

“Yes,” Peterson said.

The trial continues today.

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