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Teenager acquitted of murder

Aurora Beacon News
April 13, 2004
ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP — Christopher Salinas stood nearby as a family friend coolly shot two men in the head, but jurors Monday found the 19-year-old was not accountable for the Oct. 9, 2002, slayings in the driveway of his Aurora home.

A jury issued a split verdict after about nine hours of deliberations, acquitting the teenager late Monday on the most serious charges of first-degree murder, while holding him responsible for attempting to cover up the deaths of 22-year-old Angjel Marko and 20-year-old Klaudio Mara. The jury also found Salinas not guilty on aggravated arson charges.

The conviction on two counts of concealing a homicidal death are probational offenses, defense attorney Kathleen Colton said. A bond hearing is planned for later this week in front of Kane County Judge Patricia Piper Golden to determine if Salinas can be released while awaiting sentencing.

Colton had argued Salinas was little more than an eyewitness to the murders and was compelled to help the killer dispose of the bodies because he feared he might be shot as well.

Prosecutors believed another man, 24-year-old Frank Aquino, shot the two victims and plotted the cover-up outside a house party. Prosecutors had argued that although Salinas was not accused of shooting the two victims, he had planned an ambush as part of a revenge plot.

Aquino has been charged, but has yet to stand trial.

Prosecutors suggested Salinas was angered that Marko and Mara came to his home earlier in the evening and drove off with a woman against her will. They said Salinas and Aquino confronted the two men when they returned to the house in the 800 block of Pierce Street.

But Colton argued Salinas was trying to act as peacemaker when he approached the two men, who were driving a black Mercedes-Benz. Salinas was surprised when Aquino opened fire.

Still in shock after the murders, Colton said Salinas was afraid for his life when he accompanied Aquino in driving the victim's car to an industrial area under the Farnsworth Avenue bridge, where the car was doused in gasoline and set ablaze.

Colton argued Salinas was compelled to aid the older man.

"He had reason to be scared," Colton told jurors. "Did he go along? Yes. Out of fear for his safety.

"He had a monster in front of him."

But prosecutors said Aquino never threatened Salinas and suggested the teenager acted in tandem to hide the crime. Salinas, according to testimony, helped pour gas into the car and might have provided a lighter used to start the fire.

He later told people to keep quiet about the incident and also hid a bullet fragment he found near his driveway after the murders, witnesses said.

Prosecutors argued Salinas should be held responsible under the state's accountability laws, which address accomplices or participants in crime.

"It's as if the defendant, Christopher Salinas, became one with Frank Aquino, both of their fingers on the trigger," Kane County Assistant State's Attorney Christine Downs told the jury