Probation, deportation for key witness in 2014 murder of missing Bartlett man

  • Joan Vado-Bonilla was a key witness against Gary Bennett.

    Joan Vado-Bonilla was a key witness against Gary Bennett.

 
 
Updated 3/31/2017 6:16 PM

A 29-year-old West Dundee man was sentenced Friday to probation and immediately deported for his role in covering up the 2014 murder of Bartlett man over a drug debt.

Joan Vado-Bonilla testified against Gary M. Bennett, who faces 45 to 85 years prison for the shooting of Keith Crawford, 36. Bennett's lengthy trial concluded in March.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A jury convicted Bennett, 38, in large part to testimony from Vado-Bonilla, who described how Bennett shot Crawford in the back of the head in August 2014 while Vado-Bonilla drove them to Bennett's cousin's farm. Vado-Bonilla also testified as to how Bennett cleaned up the car, deposited the body in a Dumpster at an Elgin apartment complex and burned Crawford's belongings.

Authorities recorded conversations between Vado-Bonilla and Bennett to bolster their case, which also relied on cellphone tower pings to chart Bennett's movements the night of the murder.

Attorneys for Bennett argued Vado-Bonilla, who immigrated to the United States illegally from Venezuela, was a habitual liar who wanted to avoid deportation.

Bennett was charged in August 2015 with the murder of Crawford, whose body has not been found.

Vado-Bonilla pleaded guilty in December 2016 to concealment of a homicide, a felony that could have landed him five years in prison.

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As part of the sentence by Kane County Judge John Barsanti, Vado-Bonilla was fined $1,450, given 30 months' probation and sentenced to 180 days in jail. Under state law, the jail sentence could be cut in half for good behavior. Vado-Bonilla had served 90 days in jail.

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement picked him up to be deported, officials said.

Bennett, formerly of Algonquin, is due in court April 20 for post-trial motions and to set a date for sentencing.

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