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Former Aurora man found guilty of wife's 1990 murder

A former Aurora man already serving a life sentence for two homicides was found guilty Wednesday night of killing his wife almost a quarter-century ago.

A Kane County jury deliberated about three hours before finding Aurelio Montano, 58, guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Maria Montano in July 1990. Prosecutors allege that Montano strangled her with yarn or twine, buried her body on a horse farm near Naperville and later exhumed her remains before destroying them, possibly with a wood chipper.

"He did it. He covered it up. He moved the body, and now it's time that he pays for it," Assistant State's Attorney Greg Sams told jurors.

The trial featured perhaps the state's first-ever expert testimony on so-called "cadaver dogs," which are trained to detect the scent of human decomposition. Prosecutors said there are no cases in Illinois appellate records on the trial use of cadaver dog evidence.

The final prosecution witness, dog trainer and handler Ellen Ponall of the Midwest K9 Emergency Response Team, testified Wednesday that three German shepherds alerted handlers to the presence of human remains in late 2007 at the Hobson Road horse farm. She said the dogs gave similar alerts for a rug found buried there.

Montano's sister testified that she saw Maria Montano's body rolled up in a rug on July 7, 1990, the date on or about the time she was killed. On Monday, Maribel Montano Barajas, 33, the only child of Aurelio and Maria Montano, said the rug used was the one that was in the family's living room that year.

Barajas' father took her to spend July 7 with relatives, Barajas said, and the next day he brought her home and told her that her mother had run off with another man. But Barajas said she saw her mother's purse and important identification in the master bedroom.

Assistant Public Defender Brenda Willett told jurors that Barajas, only 10 at the time of her mother's disappearance, was not a reliable witness.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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