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Aurora murder trial concludes
Kane County Chronicle April 5, 2008

An Aurora man will wait about two weeks to learn whether he will be held responsible for the 1996 murder of a child. Prosecutors say Elias Diaz, now 38, ordered two fellow gang members Nov. 10, 1996, to “take care of business,” resulting in an early morning shooting that mistakenly killed 6-year-old Nicholas “Nico” Contreras. Friday marked the fifth and final day of Diaz’s bench trial. Circuit Judge Timothy Sheldon said he would announce his verdict April 18.

Meanwhile, Diaz remains in jail. Diaz denied any involvement when he testified Thursday, saying that he was asleep at the time of the 5 a.m. shooting. In her closing arguments Friday, Diaz’s attorney, Kathleen Colton, blamed one of the men who testified against Diaz. That man – Ruben Davila – said he was with Diaz and the accused shooter, Mark Downs, the morning that Nico was shot. Downs remains in jail awaiting his murder trial. Colton said Davila was lying to secure a “deal of a lifetime,” referring to plea deals with prosecutors for Nico’s murder and an unrelated murder.

Assistant State’s Attorney Mark Stajdohar said Diaz, a high-ranking gang member, ordered Downs and Davila to shoot a rival gang member. “[Diaz] was the general that day,” Stajdohar said. “He sent them ... to kill.” Diaz then drove them to get the gun before driving them to the site of the shooting, 671 Aurora Ave. Diaz drove Downs and Davila to Aurora Avenue and waited as they got out of the car, walked up to the house, and Downs fired the gun, Stajdohar said. Diaz also drove them away after the shooting, he said. The rival member used to live there, but had moved, according to prosecutors. Instead, Nico was shot twice in the back as he slept at his grandmother’s house.

There were no arrests in the shooting for 10 years, until a gang member who knew of the shooting told police of Diaz’s involvement during an unrelated arrest, according to testimony. That man later wore a wire and taped conversations with Diaz. Davila also came forward to the FBI last year from Mexico where he had moved, according to prosecutors.

Colton accused the men of lying and being “bought and paid for.” She cited plea deals the men made with prosecutors, and $15,000 paid to Davila. Assistant State’s Attorney Sal LoPiccolo said that money went toward hotels, phone bills and a state-mandated $20 per diem. LoPiccolo also said the witnesses “put themselves in harms way” when they came forward, accusing gang members of the crime so that the Contreras family could get “closure.”