AURORA — Newly submitted DNA evidence has led authorities to drop their case against an Aurora man accused of killing his brother-in-law, although both police and prosecutors said Wednesday that they aren't convinced of his innocence.
George Garcia, 28, was charged in February in connection with the fatal stabbing of 22-year-old Abel Salgado, outside the home they shared on West Park Avenue in Aurora.
Authorities based their case on a bloody knife they found in Garcia's bed and their contention that the two men had engaged in a domestic dispute.
Garcia and his family, though, maintained his innocence from the start and volunteered to submit a DNA sample in the hopes of clearing his name.
In court Wednesday, prosecutors admitted that tests of the sample prove the knife did not contain the victim's blood, only Garcia's.
"I think it's clear that the police jumped to an illogical conclusion here," said Garcia's attorney, Kathleen Colton. "They should have examined the other possibilities."
Garcia, who has been free on $250,000 bond since a week after his arrest, said investigators seemed convinced of his guilt and urged him repeatedly to "just admit it." He never gave in.
"I just had faith that, eventually, the truth would come out," he said.
Garcia said he suffers from a skin disorder and uses a knife to scratch the lesions on his arms and back. He also has an alibi that puts him at a friend's house at the time of the stabbing.
"It's troubling to see that charges are being filed against people with this weak of evidence," Colton said.
Police and prosecutors admit that the DNA results were not what they were expecting but said the initial charges were based on sound probable cause.
"Both our department and the state's attorney did the right thing and dropped the charges for now," said Aurora police spokesman Dan Ferrelli. "That's not to say they won't be refiled at a later date."
Prosecutors agreed that, while the DNA evidence leaves them with no physical evidence against Garcia, it does not exclude him as a suspect.
"I'm not convinced of his innocence," said Assistant State's Attorney Greg Sams. "Although, at least now, I'm not convinced of his guilt, either."
Garcia, who still lives at the home where the stabbing occurred, said he is haunted by the fact that his brother-in-law's killer remains at large.
"The most disturbing part to me," he said, "is that they've been wasting their time looking at me while whoever did this is still out there."
He said his ordeal has also been "a wake-up call" that bad things happen to innocent people.
"I used to trust the police department," he said. "Now, I feel like I can't trust anyone."
Garcia's brother, Anthony, likewise, called his brother's arrest "pure incompetence" and said the family is considering a lawsuit against the department.
"This has been a nightmare from start to finish," Anthony Garcia said. "There is no way that my brother, with the way he was raised and the values he has, could ever have done anything like this. He's just not capable of it."
The Garcia case marks the second time in less than a week that authorities have dismissed murder charges based on DNA evidence in a northern Illinois case.
Prosecutors in Will County late last week dropped all charges against 28-year-old Kevin Fox after DNA test results failed to link him to the murder and sexual assault last summer of his 3-year-old daughter, Riley.
Fox, of Wilmington, has filed a federal lawsuit against the Will County sheriff's office and investigators alleging that they coerced him into making a false confession.