Trial begins in murder of Bartlett man missing since 2014

  • Gary M. Bennett

    Gary M. Bennett

  • Keith K. Crawford

    Keith K. Crawford

Updated 2/22/2017 8:54 PM

A Kane County prosecutor laid out the scenario of a Bartlett man's death as Gary M. Bennett's murder trial began Wednesday.

According to Assistant State's Attorney Joe Cullen, Bennett wanted more cocaine from his drug dealer, Keith K. Crawford. But Crawford, a 36-year-old father of five who lived in Bartlett, refused because Bennett still owed him money.


So the next day, Cullen alleged in his opening argument, Bennett and a friend lured Crawford from an Aug. 10, 2014, party in West Dundee into a car with the promise of going to get money from Bennett's cousin in an unincorporated area near St. Charles.

And on the way there, with Bennett's friend driving and Crawford in the front seat, Bennett fatally shot Crawford in the back of the head, wrapped his body in a roll of carpet and threw it into a Dumpster at an Elgin apartment complex, Cullen said.

Cullen relayed to jurors that Bennett told the driver that night, "Drive, and drive carefully."

Bennett, 38, formerly of Algonquin, was arrested in August 2015 in Denver and brought back to Illinois to face charges that he murdered Crawford, whose body has not been found.

Bennett's friend Joan Sabastian Vado-Bonilla, 29, also was charged with felony concealment of a homicide.

Cullen said Vado-Bonilla cut a deal with prosecutors to testify against Bennett in the case.

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Cullen acknowledged that Vado-Bonilla was involved in illegal activity and is in the United States illegally. Cullen also stressed that Vado-Bonilla's account was corroborated by facts, such as blood soaked deep in the front seat cushion of his car matching Crawford's DNA; cellphone pings showing the trio's movements Aug. 10, 2014; cellphone records from Bennett and Crawford; and recorded conversations between Vado-Bonilla and Bennett.

Defense attorney Stephen Richards argued that Crawford may not even be dead, but if he is, prosecutors did not have proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Bennett committed murder.

Richards pointed at one of Crawford's friends, who was with him at the party, as a suspect. Richard said Crawford's friend told police several different stories that were "bold-faced lies." Richards also said Vado-Bonilla feared deportation to Venezuela, so he made up a story.

Bennett faces 20 to 60 years in prison if convicted of Crawford's murder. Vado-Bonilla is expected to testify Thursday.

The trial before Judge John Barsanti could run up to three weeks.

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