The Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office dropped murder charges Thursday against two men accused of shooting an Aurora man in the head in November 1999.
Renee Saldana, 24 and Leonides Gonzales Jr. , 25, both of Aurora, were due to stand trial for the crime next month. Batavia attorney Kathleen Colton was going to represent both during one trial, in which two juries would he hearing evidence.
Colton was preparing for a pre-trial hearing Thursday when Kane County assistant state’s attorney Robert Berlin told 16th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Donald Hudson he was dropping the charges. Berlin decided to drop the charges which could be filed again based on information prosecutors received earlier Thursday, he said.
“This decision was based on the information and evidence we have today” Berlin said, Because Berlin used the Latin term, nolle prosequi, her clients did not understand what had happened. Colton said.
“You guys are free, They just dismissed the cases!” Colton said she yelled in excitement. The men were accused of killing John Dawson as lie slept through a home invasion in which three men broke into a South Lincoln Avenue house. Dawson’s two roommates reportedly were pistol-whipped before Dawson was shot.
A confidential informant reportedly put police on the trail that ended with Saldana’s and Gonzales’ arrest this spring.
Colton has been openly critical of the state’s case, which she said relied on the word of a convicted felon who is addicted to drugs and has a history of mental health problems.
Neither of her clients matched time descriptions of the offenders that witnessed provided. she said.
“This is such a bad case and such an injustice ,” Colton said, noting that her clients have spent four months in jail awaiting trial and were fired from their jobs.
Since Saldana and Gonzales were charged, the investigation has continued, Berlin explained.
“Oftentimes, both sides uncover additional evidence after a case is charged,” Berlin said. “In this case, the information and evidence that we uncovered, it certainly changed our position.”
That information, which Berlin would not reveal because the investigation is continuing, led prosecutors o believe they could not meet their burden of proof, which is proof beyond a reasonable doubt, he said.
If additional evidence later points to Saldana and Gonzales the state’s attorney’s office could charge them again with the murder, Berlin said.