Widow testifies husband attacked from behind in fatal Aurora birthday fight

Two brothers are on trial this week on charges of aggravated battery and involuntary manslaughter stemming from an October 2017 fight in Aurora that left a 36-year-old man dead at his own birthday party.

Attorneys for Jose M. Alejandre, 35, and Raul Colin, 37, have argued they acted in self-defense. The widow of Erik Mendez testified Wednesday that Colin attacked her husband from behind and Alejandre pushed Mendez backward, causing him to hit his head. Mendez later died of a head injury.

Colin, of the 600 block of South Spencer Avenue, is charged with felony aggravated battery in the fight on the 0-99 block of South State Street that occurred after midnight on Oct. 1, 2017.

Mendez' widow, Maria Martina Aguirre, testified Wednesday through a Spanish interpreter that the brothers showed up at the birthday party, where about 30 people had been eating and drinking throughout the day.

Early that morning, there was an argument between Alejandre and another man, who Aguirre told to go inside her home to cool off and calm down. Aguirre went back outside the house and asked Alejandre and Colin to leave, but Colin first had to find his cellphone.

Aguirre testified that her husband was facing Alejandre when Colin came up from behind and struck Mendez in the back.

Aguirre testified that Alejandre then put Mendez in a chokehold, causing him to turn purple before he was released. Aguirre stepped between the men and told Colin that if he wanted to punch someone, Colin should hit her, she said.

"He swung at me, but he almost slipped and he didn't hit me," Aguirre testified.

Seeing this, Mendez wanted to confront Colin, but Alejandre was face-to-face with Mendez and pushed him with both hands on his chest, causing him to fall backward, Aguirre testified.

On cross-examination, Aguirre acknowledged that she did not mention the chokehold to police who interviewed her later that day. The bench trial before Kane County Judge D.J. Tegeler is expected to run through today or possibly Friday. It is unclear whether Tegeler will give his verdict once the trial ends or take the matter under advisement and issue a verdict at a later date.

Aggravated battery and involuntary manslaughter are felonies both punishable by a sentence ranging from two to five years in prison; but also are eligible for probation. Both Alejandre and Colin are free on bond.

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