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10/26/87 the People of the State of v. Antonio Santamaria

October 26, 1987





519 N.E.2d 1, 165 Ill. App. 3d 381, 116 Ill. Dec. 411 1987.IL.1585

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Knox County; the Hon. Stephen G. Evans, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE STOUDER delivered the opinion of the court. BARRY, P.J., and HEIPLE, J., concur.


The defendant, Antonio Santamaria, was found guilty by a jury of murdering his wife, in violation of section 9-1 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 9-1), and of concealment of a homicidal death, in violation of section 9-3.1 of the Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 9-3.1). Santamaria was sentenced to concurrent terms of natural life imprisonment for the murder and five years for the concealment of the homicidal death. He appeals his conviction and sentence on the following grounds: (1) that the trial court erred in not granting his challenge for cause of a juror on the basis that the juror initially stated he had already formed an opinion that the defendant was guilty; (2) that he was deprived of a fair trial when the prosecutor insinuated that he had inquired about a burial vault for his wife prior to the killing and then failed to present any evidence in support; (3) that the trial court erroneously considered, as as statutory factor in aggravation for sentencing, that his conduct caused serious harm to his wife since such harm is implicit in every offense of murder; and (4) that the trial court abused its discretion in imposing a sentence of natural life imprisonment for the murder in light of his accomplishments in life, lack of any prior criminal record, and that the offense was the result of circumstances unlikely to recur.

The defendant was a doctor of medicine educated in Mexico but not licensed to practice in the United States. His wife, Delia, was employed at a nursing home and worked the evening shift. On August 10, 1985, she had a conversation with another nurse in which she disclosed that she would be seeking a divorce from Santamaria. A letter from Delia's attorney reached Santamaria on August 9. During the conversation, Delia stated, "Well, Susan, the papers are in the mail. I don't know what he'll do." Delia was scheduled to work the next day but failed to show. Because she was normally a punctual employee, her supervisor called the Santamaria house to determine her whereabouts. The defendant answered the phone and when questioned, stated that Delia was in Chicago and then abruptly hung up. Delia also failed to show up to work on August 12. The nursing home administrator telephoned the house. When she inquired about Delia, she was told she had gone to North Carolina and then that she went to Chicago. When the administrator told Santamaria that she would contact the police if she did not hear from Delia in an hour, Santamaria stated, "I would rather have you wait three or four days."

On the day that the conversation took place with the nursing home administrator, a next door neighbor witnessed Santamaria, who seldom worked in his garden, digging a hole. The hole was approximately 1 to 1 1/2 feet deep. The neighbor observed Santamaria filling this hole the next day and smoothing it over.

Also on August 12, Delia's attorney received a letter from Santamaria. The letter, dated August 10, stated that Santamaria and his wife were going to attempt a reconciliation. Santamaria stated in the letter that he had written because his wife was embarrassed since she had started and then stopped the proceedings several times in the past. Arguments about the rearing of the children had often occurred during the marriage. Santamaria had discussed divorce with one of his sons on August 10. According to his son, Santamaria said he would rather murder Delia and kill himself than get divorced.

On August 10, Santamaria awoke when his sons came home at approximately 4:30 a.m. After he had talked to them briefly, he went upstairs, where he saw Delia standing at her bedroom door. He told her it was because of her permissiveness that the boys often came home drunk or on drugs. Santamaria stated that Delia then became "ugly" and responded that the boys had the right to do as they wished. Santamaria then stated that they should stop talking and go to bed. They then went to their respective rooms, which were across the hall from each other.

Santamaria stated that he fell asleep and later awoke to a noise and found his wife standing over him with a knife in her hand. A struggle ensued which took them from his bedroom to her bedroom and finally into the bathroom. Santamaria stated that he tried to knock his wife out with his fist, had hit her several times, but that she managed to hold onto the knife. During the struggle, Delia was cut on the neck. Finally, Santamaria pushed his wife backward, causing her to fall backwards and hit her head against the bathtub. It was at this point that the defendant cut his wife's throat, then put the rest of the body into the bathtub, disarticulated the body into 15 pieces, and removed the heart, liver, pancreas, kidneys, intestinal tract, and a large portion of the left lung.

Santamaria wrapped each of the 15 pieces in white linen. He buried the torso, legs, and feet in a hole he had dug in the basement and the head, arms, and hands in the hole that was dug in the garden. A plumber testified at trial that, while working in the Santamaria house in early August, he had noticed the hole in the basement and that it was covered with a door at that time.

Galesburg police started an investigation on August 13 as a result of a missing person report filed on Delia. They went to the house and talked with the defendant, who stated he did not know where she was. Police obtained a photo and checked various train and bus stations with no results. They also checked the nursing home and discovered that Delia had still not reported for work. The police returned to the home the following day and talked with two of Santamaria's sons. Delia's car and car keys and her purse with driver's license, make-up, and checkbook were still at the house. Delia never left home without her purse. Based on information from one of the sons, police obtained a search warrant for the Santamaria house.

The police executed the warrant and found that the door to Delia's room from the hallway had been secured with a bicycle lock. The door from her room to the bathroom was also secured. Upon gaining access to Delia's room, the police found clothing which appeared to be stained with blood on a hanger. A search of the basement revealed the first traces of Delia's body. One of the officers noticed an area where the floor bricks had been removed. He started to dig until his shovel hit something which felt soft and spongy. Then he proceeded to dig by hand. About 1 1/2 feet down he felt skin. He brushed ...

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