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Feds, Chicago police investigated Juarez Cartel links to 2016 Gage Park murders, lawyers say

The attorneys for a Chicago man accused in the killings of six relatives want information about an informant and the three cartel hitmen the informant says were responsible for the murders.

Memorial crossed lined up outside the Gage Park home of Noe Martinez Sr., who was found dead inside the house alongside his wife, and son, Noe Jr., daughter and two grandchildren, age 13 and 10.
Memorial crossed lined up outside the Gage Park home of Noe Martinez Sr., who was found dead inside the house alongside his wife, and son, Noe Jr., daughter and two grandchildren, age 13 and 10.
Andy Grimm / Sun-Times

Two weeks after the Chicago police found six bodies scattered around the blood-stained interior of a Gage Park bungalow, a former federal informant in Mexico told detectives drug cartel members carried out the slaughter over a multimillion-dollar debt, lawyers for a man charged in the 2016 murders said.

Months before Diego Uribe Cruz and his girlfriend Jafeth Ramos were charged with killing his relatives over money, police and federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents spent weeks investigating a tip from the informant who had been deported to Mexico, according to Uribe Cruz’s team of assistant Cook County public defenders.

The informant allegedly told police that a week before the bodies were discovered, a Juarez Cartel boss had dispatched three of his enforcers to Chicago after Uribe Cruz’s uncle — also one of the victim’s estranged husband — made off with a $3.5 million drug shipment.

That victim, 32-year-old Maria Herminia Martinez, was found dead along with her parents Noe and Rosaura Martinez; brother Noe Martinez Jr. and sons Leonardo Cruz, 13, and Alexi Cruz, 10.

Diego Uribe Cruz
Diego Uribe Cruz
Cook County Sheriff’s Department

Uribe Cruz and Ramos, had gone to the house, in the 5700 block of South California Avenue, with the intention to rob Uribe Cruz’s family, prosecutors said. Uribe Cruz also allegedly told police he had a “lot of anger” at how Herminia Martinez treated his uncle and started his murderous rampage by shooting her after she refused to give him money.

After killing five of his victims, Uribe Cruz waited in the house to murder 62-year-old Noe Martinez Sr., who had been out buying tamales and hot chocolate for the family. Police searched the home two days later in Feb. 2016 — finding all the doors locked — after 38-year-old Noe Martinez Jr’s co-workers reported him missing work.

Jafeth Ramos
Jafeth Ramos
Cook County Sheriff’s Department

Uribe Cruz was charged three months later after prosecutors said his DNA was found under Herminia Martinez’s fingernails, and his blood was discovered on the back stairs of the bungalow. Cellphone records also show his mobile was at the crime scene at the time of the murders, prosecutors said at the time.

Assistant Public Defender Margaret Domin is seeking to have prosecutors turn over background information on the informant in Mexico and the three others he identified as the killers.

The informant said he had been at the Juarez home of a cartel boss Jose “El Tio” Rivera, where he learned that Herminia Martinez’s husband, “Chino,” had taken a 250-kilogram drug shipment from the cartel and kept it for himself, according to a recent motion filed by Domin.

The informant said the “killers/enforcers” for the cartel told him they were headed to Chicago to “take care of business,” Domin wrote. The informant said his friend, who lived on the South Side, told him the three hitmen were also seen driving in the Martinezes’ neighborhood around the time of the murders.

Chicago police detectives and DEA agents met with the informant in Mexico City about a month after the killings, and collected a sample of his DNA. The informant’s DNA “could not be excluded” from DNA samples taken from the crime scene, according to Domin’s filing, which names the informant and the three alleged hitmen. The filing does not mention why investigators ruled out the informant, or the men he named as the killers, as possible suspects. The Chicago Sun-Times is not naming the informant or the other men since they have not been charged in the murders.

Uribe’s lawyers have asked for up-to-date contact information for the informant, his criminal background, information about his time as a U.S. Customs and Border Protection informant, as well as records of the informant’s travel to and from Mexico and Chicago around the time of the murders. They’re also asking for DNA profiles for the other three men that may be stored in law enforcement databases, as well as their criminal records.

The state’s attorney’s office declined comment, citing the pending case against Uribe Cruz, 26.

Ramos, 23 — who police said was present during the murders, but did not shoot or stab anyone — is also waiting trial.