The 2016 killing of six family members in their Gage Park bungalow was horrifying, the details chilling and gruesome.
On that, prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed during closing arguments Tuesday in the murder trial of a Chicago man accused in the mass slaying. Diego Uribe Cruz, 28, faces first-degree murder charges in the killing of his relatives in their home on Feb. 2, 2016.
After that, their stories diverged: Prosecutors alleged Uribe Cruz killed Maria Martinez after trying to rob her and then slaughtered the rest of the family so as not to leave witnesses. They cited testimony from his former girlfriend who was present as well as DNA, a confession and other evidence.
His defense attorneys, though, countered that the girlfriend, Jafeth Ramos, got a “sweetheart deal” to testify against Uribe Cruz. They argued that one person could not have committed the crime and said it can’t be determined when DNA was deposited.
The six slain relatives made up three generations and included two children, 10-year-old Alexis Cruz and 13-year-old Leonardo Cruz. Maria Herminia Martinez, 32, her brother, Noe Martinez Jr., 38, and their mother and father, Rosaura Martinez, 58, and Noe Martinez Sr., 62 were also killed. The two children were Maria Martinez’s.
“These were women, children, brothers, sisters, grandparents, cousins. They were a family,” said Jason Fisher, an assistant state’s attorney.
Family members watched the trial, at times growing emotional when attorneys showed crime scene photos or re-creations.
The jury began deliberating around 3 pm Tuesday.
Prosecutors began presenting evidence to the jury last week, including testimony from Ramos, who said that Uribe Cruz started driving toward the Martinez home and told her they would “come back with some money.”
Ramos testified as part of a plea deal by which she plead guilty to armed robbery in order to get reduced charges and likely a 25-year sentence as opposed to life in prison.
She told the jury he asked Maria Martinez to talk upstairs but held a gun to her, demanded money and shot her when she did not comply. He bludgeoned Noe Martinez Jr. with the pistol and put his knee on his neck after he came upstairs, prosecutors alleged.
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“At that point the brother, Noe Jr., made the mistake to come to the aid of his sister,” Fisher said.
Uribe Cruz then pushed Rosaura Martinez down the stairs after she followed them up, prosecutors said. He stabbed Rosaura Martinez and the children they alleged, and killed Noe Martinez Sr. after he returned home with food.
Prosecutors said they found DNA that matched Uribe Cruz under Maria Martinez’s fingernails and in a smear of blood. During the trial, they also showed video of Uribe Cruz confessing some details of the crime to Chicago police detectives.
In her closing arguments, Uribe Cruz’s attorney Margaret Domin told the jury that her client could not have overpowered six people without a 911 call, or neighbors hearing a commotion. She said the details of the crime are difficult to hear, but she contended the pieces don’t fit together.
Domin questioned why Uribe’s DNA wasn’t found elsewhere in such a brutal crime scene. She said that Uribe Cruz confessed after being held without access to water or a bathroom for a time.
“The evidence the state presented doesn’t make sense,” she said. “The state was not able to explain to you how one person could have done this.”