Two years ago at his drug trafficking sentencing, federal prosecutors argued strongly that Adalberto "Sabu" Santiago was a dangerous man capable of brutal murder.
At the time, prosecutors presented a letter intercepted by prison authorities
that they argued proved he was part of a chilling 2004 suffocation and
dismemberment of a Northwest Side cellphone store owner.
On Wednesday, Santiago stood before a Cook County judge for yet another
slaying, this time on charges he killed Ramon Torres, 41, during a home invasion
in February 2001.
Santiago, 46, already serving a 20-year sentence for his 2009 drug
trafficking conviction, now faces up to life in prison if he is convicted of the
cold-case murder of the handyman in the 2500 block of North Drake Avenue.
While an accomplice ransacked a bedroom, Santiago held the victim in the
bathtub and stabbed and shot him repeatedly, Assistant State's Attorney Patrick
Morley. Police found a knife as well as a semi-automatic
handgun and four spent shell casings at the scene.
Santiago's DNA, entered into a national database after his drug trafficking
conviction, matched evidence recovered from the bloody scene.
Santiago was later interviewed at a federal prison in Oxford, Wis., but
denied involvement in the slaying.
A reputed leader in the Spanish Cobras, Santiago was never charged in the
2004 kidnapping and murder in which store owner Jesus Colon was slain after the
plot went awry.
As many as 10 people were suspected of participating in the kidnapping,
including Santiago's brother, Alejandro, who is also serving a drug trafficking
sentence. Evidence that Alejandro Santiago was part
of the plot was also introduced at his federal sentencing, but he too has not
been charged in Colon's slaying.
At Adalberto Santiago's sentencing, federal prosecutors introduced detailed,
chilling statements from two co-defendants to argue that he orchestrated Colon's
slaying. In one statement, Jose Perez, who was convicted of the murder,
described how Santiago allegedly instructed another kidnapper to cut off Colon's
fingers and put them in antifreeze so the victim could not be identified through
Prosecutors also introduced a letter that Alejandro Santiago wrote to his
brother while both were in federal prison. The handwritten note, intercepted by
prison officials, discussed the slaying and a plan to try to pin the blame on
Perez and a second co-defendant who was also assisting investigators.
"We haven't done all the dirt to start crying now," the brother wrote. "You
will probably have to testify against me, but it's cool so put that pride away
and lets (sic) do this right because there's no saving me after those
(expletive) get done singing."
In the end, the federal judge did not agree that the murder should be
considered as an aggravating factor against Adalberto Santiago and declined to
boost his sentence for that reason.