The first of four people charged with torturing and murdering a Waukegan man and dumping his body in a pond near Barrington Hills in 2011 pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in Lake County court Tuesday.
Roberto Guzman, 25, of the 1000 block of Berwick Boulevard in Waukegan, was sentenced to 29 years in prison following his plea deal in front of Lake County Judge Mark Levitt.
As part of the agreement, Guzman was forced to provide statements implicating others in the murder of David Campbell, 27, of Waukegan, on July 5, 2011.
The plea deal came just before the second day of jury selection in Guzman's trial was set to begin at the Lake County courthouse.
"There's never a happy ending to murder," defense attorney Thomas Glasgow of Schaumburg said. "(Guzman) goes to jail and the (victim) is still dead."
Had Guzman been found guilty in a trial, he could have been sentenced up to 60 years behind bars.
Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Ken LaRue said Guzman was the alleged ringleader behind the murder of Campbell, who was hit in the head with a hammer, choked and burned with a blowtorch in a Waukegan auto-body garage minutes before he was killed.
Also charged and awaiting trial for the murder are: Nadia Palacios, 22, of the 3500 block of Winhaven Drive, Waukegan; Eric Castillo, 24, of the 38400 block of North Sheridan Road, Beach Park; and Jose Horta, 19, of the 300 block of Edison Court, Waukegan.
LaRue said those three suspects are scheduled to go to trial in June. LaRue said another person was also involved in Campbell's murder, but has yet to be caught.
Campbell was targeted after Guzman was kidnapped and was Palacios sexually assaulted in Waukegan on July 1, 2011. The pair heard through rumors Campbell was behind the attack and vowed revenge, LaRue said. However, Campbell was not involved, LaRue said.
"We believe they killed the wrong guy," he said after Tuesday's hearing. "The Cook County Sheriff's Department did a great job on this case and so did the Waukegan Police Department."
LaRue said Guzman set up the July 5 attack against Campbell, but did not attend the beating. Campbell was lured to the garage where he was attacked by Palacios, Castillo and Horta, and the fourth unknown subject.
After he died, Campbell's body was wrapped in plastic and dumped in the Penny Road Pond in Spring Lake Forest Preserve near Barrington Hills, where it was discovered by Cook County sheriff's deputies five days later, LaRue said.
After Palacios was arrested on separate charges about a year later, she told Waukegan Police what had happened.
Campbell's family members applauded the plea deal Tuesday.
"Justice was served here today," said Campbell's sister, Kathryn Campbell. "It's not exactly what we wanted, but God will have the final decision."
She added he was the youngest of 18 children in the Campbell household, had a son in middle school, and was extremely friendly.
She said she would be in court if Palacios, Castillo and Horta go to trial in June.
"He was always there for his family when we needed something," said niece Rashawnda Campbell. "He's missing out on so much because he's not here anymore."