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updated: 8/14/2014 7:05 PM

Eyewitness testifies in Mount Prospect murder trial

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  • Edwin Paniagua

      Edwin Paniagua

 
 

A Chicago woman who witnessed the 2010 stabbing of a Mount Prospect man testified Thursday as prosecutors presented their case against Edwin Paniagua, 19, charged with killing Jean Louis Wattecamps hours after they met at his apartment complex swimming pool.

Prosecutors say robbery motivated Paniagua and co-defendant Marko Guardiola to kill Wattecamps, 52, a man described by prosecutors as "generous to a fault." Guardiola, 41, a Chicago Street gang member, pleaded guilty in April to killing Wattecamps and was sentenced to 33 years in prison.

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Erica Yanez, 26, testified she and Guardiola, then her boyfriend, met the victim the afternoon of July 20, 2010, while they were hanging out at the Colony Apartments swimming pool. Guardiola and several other men, including a resident of the apartment complex, spent the afternoon drinking, she said. The resident, who she called Tony, introduced them to Wattecamps, who treated the group to dinner at a nearby fast food restaurant, she said. They ended up back at Wattecamps' apartment later that evening, where they were joined by Paniagua, whom Yanez testified she met the previous day for the first time.

The group dispersed about 1:30 a.m., but Yanez said she, Guardiola and Paniagua returned sometime later. Yanez excused herself to use the restroom. When she returned she said she saw Guardiola and Paniagua "tussling" with the victim.

"They were taking turns patting him down," she said.

After they shoved Wattecamps down on the couch, Paniagua used a cable to bind his legs, Yanez testified. Paniagua then went into the master bedroom where Yanez said she heard drawers opening and closing. He returned minutes later with a knife, which he held to Wattecamps' throat, Yanez said.

She testified Guardiola told Paniagua to "chill" and "calm down," while Wattecamps kept repeating, "I thought you were my friends."

After they bound Wattecamps' hands and tied a shirt around his neck, Guardiola and Paniagua struck him, Yanez said, adding that Paniagua was "smiling and laughing" when he kicked the victim in his chest. After that, Guardiola stabbed Wattecamps multiple times in the chest, she said.

In his opening statement, Cook County Assistant Public Defender Joe Gump insisted the title "murderer" belongs to Guardiola "because that's exactly what he is."

"Why is Edwin being prosecuted for a murder everyone knows Marko committed?" said Gump, who painted Guardiola as a coldblooded killer who planned to rob Wattecamps and who "manipulated, coerced and compelled Erica and Edwin to help him out."

"This wasn't a one-man job," said Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Karen Crothers in her opening statement. "They were in it together."

And from this brutal, heinous act, they got $10, said Crothers, "all for $10."

Paniagua is a taker, she said. "He took that which we hold most dear. He took Jean Wattecamps' life ... We're asking you to find him guilty of first-degree murder, because he earned it."

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