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Horta guilty of first-degree murder

Jose Horta

Jose Horta

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Updated: January 10, 2014 2:53PM

After about two hours of deliberations, a Lake County jury found Jose Horta guilty Friday of first-degree murder in the torture-killing of David Campbell in a Waukegan body shop.

The jury also found Horta, 21, of Waukegan, guilty of enhanced counts of murder while using a firearm and murder accompanied by exceptionally brutal and heinous actions in the death of Campbell, 27, of Waukegan.

We’re pleased with the guilty verdict,” said Assistant State’s Attorney Jim Newman, who prosecuted the case along with Assistant State’s Attorney Robert Money. Newman credited close work between investigators from the Waukegan Police Department and the Cook County Sheriff’s Department with helping to solve the case.

According to police and prosecutors, Horta held a gun on Campbell while other defendants in the case briefly interrogated him, beat him with a hammer and burned him with a blowtorch after setting up a fake drug deal to lure him to the body shop on July 5, 2011.

Horta also helped dispose of Campbell’s body in the Penny Road Forest Preserve in the Barrington area of Cook County.

The jury, which began hearing testimony in the case Wednesday, viewed a 40-minute videotaped statement to Waukegan police in which Horta admitted that he held a gun on Campbell throughout the attack and murder, and that he helped to dispose of the body the night of the murder.

They also heard witness testimony involving graphic details of the case.

The motive for the murder was revenge, assistant state’s attorney’s Jim Newman and Robert Money said throughout the trial, alleging that the group targeted Campbell as one of the masked men who had kidnapped and sexually assaulted one member of the group days before the murder.

But officials said Campbell was believed to be a victim of mistaken identity.

“This was not just a robbery and possible beat-down, this was revenge, by people that ultimately killed the wrong person,” Money said during closing arguments Friday morning.

Roberto Guzman, 25, of Waukegan, Horta, Eric Castillo, 25, of Beach Park and Nadia Palacios, 23, of Waukegan had mistakenly targeted Campbell as one of three men who had kidnapped Guzman and sexually assaulted Palacios July 1, 2011, officials said.

Three masked assailants had kidnapped Guzman for drugs and money and sexually assaulted Palacios, who was with Guzman at the time, according to reports.

Palacios identified Campbell as her attacker because he wore shoes similar to those of her assailants.

During the attack on Campbell, witnesses testified that Castillo bound his arms and legs with zip ties, hit him in the head and chest with a hammer and placed a plastic grocery bag over his head. Then, prosecutors said, Palacios pulled down his pants and burned his upper thighs and genitals with a blowtorch.

Another Hispanic man present, who has not been identified, then placed more bags over Campbell’s head and secured them around his neck with zip ties. The cause of death was ruled to be strangulation and/or asphyxiation.

Guzman has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and received a 29-year-sentence for his role in the crime. Palacios and Castillo have each pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges with trials pending.

Defense attorney Robert Ritacca had argued that Horta was a witness to the crime who cooperated with police, and not a murderer.

Despite Horta’s statement, Ritacca maintained there was no gun, and that there was no evidence to link him to the murder scene or the scene where the body was dumped.

“Horta is not guilty,” he said to conclude his closing argument, but two hours later, the jury concluded otherwise.

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