ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP — A judge Thursday dismissed four of six first-degree murder counts against a 19-year-old Aurora man, briefly halting a jury trial while prosecutors questioned whether they legally could continue.
Kane County Judge Patricia Piper Golden tossed the four charges against Christopher Salinas without comment after deliberating overnight on a standard defense request for acquittal that followed the testimony of the prosecution's final witness.
Defense attorney Kathleen Colton had argued Salinas didn't kill and wasn't responsible for the July 9, 2002, deaths of Klaudio Mara, 20, and Angjel Marko, 22. The two men were sitting in a car in Salinas' driveway outside his Aurora home when they were shot once each in the head.
The victims' Mercedes-Benz later was driven to an industrial area under the Farnsworth bridge and set on fire.
Salinas was trying to play peacekeeper after Marko and Mara allegedly kidnapped a woman hanging out at his house, Colton said. Another man, Frank Aquino, shot the men after they returned to the home, she said.
Aquino, 24, also is charged with murder but has not stood trial.
"I was going to go outside and make sure nothing happened," Salinas told police during a recorded interview. "You know, make sure that I didn't get shot, nobody got shot."
The various murder counts present different theories on how the crimes were committed.
The charges Golden dismissed alleged Salinas either pulled the trigger or was otherwise accountable for the murders, Colton said. The remaining counts allege the murders were committed during the commission of a forcible felony.
Salinas also is charged with aggravated arson and concealment of a homicide.
Salinas testified Thursday that he went with Aquino to get rid of the car after the murders because he was afraid of Aquino. But he admitted Aquino did not threaten him and never displayed the gun after the murders.
Salinas poured gasoline into the car but refused to pour gas on the victims and wasn't at the scene when the car was set on fire by Aquino and a third man, who has not been charged, he testified.
When asked why he followed Aquino's instructions, Salinas said, "Because he told me to do it, and if I didn't do it, I believed I'd be the next one in the car."
The trial is expected to conclude next week.