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Fugitive child molester captured in Guatemala, will begin life sentence here

Evaristo Santa Maria | Police

Just shy of four years after he fled Chicago for his native Honduras ahead of his trial for child sexual abuse, a former Northwest Side man returned to the Leighton Criminal Court Building Thursday, and will soon begin a life sentence in prison.

Evaristo Santa Maria had not appeared in court since the spring of 2015, when he jumped bail while awaiting trial for sexually abusing two relatives. A jury trial was held that fall, with Santa Maria not present, and he was found guilty, then sentenced to natural life.

FBI agents arrested Santa Maria in Guatemala, and he was returned Wednesday to Chicago, said Kiera Ellis, a spokeswoman for State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.

“Crimes against children are among the most despicable and those who commit them must be held accountable,” Foxx said in a statement.

Santa Maria, a Honduras citizen, had remained in that country until he was lured to neighboring Guatemala, where he was told a relative would help him collect his bond money, according to a woman who said she was his sister in-law.

Santa Maria had only left the country before his trial because his mother had taken ill, and the elderly woman died in Honduras the day after her son was captured, the woman said in an interview before his court hearing.

He was lured to Guatemala “because they had support of the Guatemalan government to make the arrest and extradite him back to the U.S.,” Foxx said in the statement.

In court Thursday, Santa Maria’s lawyer said he would file a motion explaining his client’s absence at trial.

Santa Maria was ordered into the custody of the state Department of Corrections, to begin his life sentence.