Bail denied for 3 charged with murdering Naperville man found in trash bin
Bail was denied Saturday for three people -- a Rockford man, his mother and his girlfriend -- facing first-degree murder charges in the January 2018 death of 20-year-old Michael Armendariz of Naperville, whose body was found months later in a Chicago trash bin.
Ernest Collins, 22, and Cassandra Green, 21, both of Rockford, and Collins' mother, Candice Jones, 38, of Chicago, also are charged with aggravated kidnapping, armed robbery and concealment of a homicidal death. Collins and Green are also charged with residential burglary.
Armendariz was last seen by his roommate around 9:11 p.m. Jan. 14, 2018, getting into the front passenger seat of a black, 1999 Ford Explorer SUV driven by Green in the parking lot of his apartment complex, prosecutors said.
Within minutes of the vehicle driving off, Armendariz was shot twice in the back of the head by Collins, who emerged from hiding in the back seat, according to Helen Kapas, DuPage County assistant state's attorney.
Collins plotted with Green and Jones to kill Armendariz after the trio had tried unsuccessfully to rob him for months, authorities said. Green, who knew Armendariz from childhood, had showed the others Facebook photos of Armendariz with lots of cash and drugs, Kapas said.
After killing Armendariz, Green and Collins drove the SUV to Jones' home on the 6800 block of South Artesian Avenue in Chicago and with her help dumped Armendariz's body in a trash bin, which they then placed in Jones' garage, authorities said.
The day after the shooting, Collins and Green used Armendariz's apartment keys, which they stole from him, to burglarize his apartment, prosecutors said.
Sometime later, the trash bin was moved to the garage of a vacant house next door. Armendariz's body was found May 31 after Jones herself called 311 to report a foul odor near her home, authorities said.
Despite giving Collins the gun that took Armendariz's life, Jones admitted to police she called 311 because "she wanted to free his (Armendariz's) soul," Kapas said.
Investigators later learned the Ford Explorer was registered to a relative of Jones' boyfriend and that she had the vehicle in her possession at the time Armendariz went missing. On Jan. 30, 2019, Chicago police found the Ford after Jones tried to get rid of it, and the Illinois State Police crime lab matched the DNA of blood found inside with that of Armendariz, prosecutors said.
Kapas called the trio "stone cold killers."
"The family that commits crimes together, stays together and goes to prison together," said Kapas, calling for the three defendants to be separated while incarcerated.
Assistant Public Defender Garrett Ard argued for leniency on bail for Collins, who has previous juvenile offenses on his rap sheet, saying he had been on medication for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and has two children.
"My client made no statements to the police," said Ard, adding all the information about the crime came from Green.
Collins and Green were arrested Feb. 4 in Rockford and Jones was arrested Feb. 6 in Chicago.
At that time, police executed a search warrant at Jones' home, recovering "numerous items of evidence" including a 38-caliber revolver, a number of 38-caliber shell casings, and remnants of partially burned items from a fire pit in the backyard, including a partially burned cellphone believed to have belonged to Armendariz, DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin said during a news conference after the bond hearing.
The Naperville and Chicago police departments, Cook County state's attorney's office, Illinois State Police and Winnebago County sheriff's office all worked on the investigation.
"This investigation required intense resilience and diligence on the part of our detectives and our law enforcement partners," Naperville Police Chief Robert Marshall said, adding that he hoped the prosecution would lead "to justice for Michael and hopefully bringing some closure to his family."
The trio will next appear in court 9 a.m. March 4 for arraignment before Judge Jeffrey MacKay.