Trial begins in 2001 drowning of Hanover Park man
The trial of a Hanover Park man who authorities say fled the country to avoid prosecution for a 2001 murder, began Tuesday in Rolling Meadows.
Prosecutors say Jose Camacho, 45, caused the death of 28-year-old Flavio Venāncio, of Hanover Park, after a car crash near the Schaumburg Metra station on May 24, 2001. Camacho and Venāncio, who had been drinking, were driving together in Camacho's car when Venāncio encouraged Camacho to drive faster. After Camacho lost control and crashed into a guardrail, Venāncio reportedly began taunting him, calling him a "stupid driver," prosecutors said.
Camacho attacked Venāncio, stabbing him in the face and head with a pen and strangling him, prosecutors said. He then dragged the victim to a nearby retention pond where he drowned, prosecutors said. A mosquito abatement employee found Venāncio's body the next day, May 25, 2001, authorities said.
Declaring his client's innocence, defense attorney Calvin Aguilar challenged prosecutors' claims.
"The state is going to say Mr. Venāncio was alive on May 24 and dead on May 25. That he had a fight with Mr. Camacho and that as a result, Mr. Venāncio lost his life," Aguilar said. "They will ask you to take as a given that Mr. Camacho is guilty of murder."
"The evidence will show Mr. Camacho is innocent," Aguilar said.
Camacho's former co-worker Jose Zavala, testified that Camacho and two other men were living with Zavala, his wife and two children in a Hanover Park apartment in 2001. Zavala said Camacho knocked on his bedroom door on May 24, told Zavala he had been in a fight and proceeded to recount what happened that day.
Zavala testified Camacho told him he and another man were driving, that the other man urged him to go faster and that Camacho lost control and damaged the car.
Camacho told the other man the damage was his fault, Zavala recalled through an interpreter, but the other person responded that it was Camacho's "own fault because he didn't know how to drive."
Outside the car, Camacho told the other man to take a closer look at the damage, Zavala said. When the other man complied, Camacho said he grabbed the other man by the neck and started to hit him, Zavala said.
"(Camacho) mentioned that he tried to drown (the victim), but he felt remorse and pushed his stomach so that the water would come out," Zavala said.
Camacho then took a shower and left sometime before 7 a.m., Zavala said. He testified he saw Camacho's truck with front end damage in a parking lot where they worked. Zavala said he last saw Camacho about 6 p.m. that evening when Camacho told him he was leaving the state. Police obtained an arrest warrant for Camacho on May 30, 2001. They located him in Mexico in 2011 and extradited him back to Chicago in February 2012.
Retired Schaumburg police officer Jim Herman, who supervised evidence collection at the crime scene, testified that he found Venāncio face down in about 6 to 8 inches of water. Turning the victim over, Herman noticed Venāncio's eyes were swollen shut, his hands were clenched and he had a laceration above his left eye.
Testimony resumes Wednesday.