Kidnapping, robbery charges against Chicago man dismissed

Kidnapping, robbery charges against Chicago man dismissed

PAXTON — A judge has dismissed all charges against a Chicago man whom police described as the "mastermind" behind the December kidnapping and armed robbery of a Paxton businessman.

Judge Paul Lawrence granted the prosecution's motion to dismiss the case against 43-year-old Manuel Samano-Santoyo on Monday — the day he was to stand trial in Ford County Circuit Court.

Samano-Santoyo, also known as Manuel Samano, was the fourth man charged in connection with the December incident that was investigated by multiple law enforcement agencies, including the FBI.

Samano-Santoyo was charged in February with the same offenses as his three co-defendants: two counts each of armed robbery, a Class X felony, and kidnapping, a Class 2 felony; and one count of aggravated battery, a Class 3 felony.

In his motion to dismiss the case, special prosecutor Ed Parkinson indicated the prosecution would have had a difficult time proving Samano-Santoyo's involvement.

Parkinson said Samano-Santoyo was charged "under a theory of accountability, as the actual evidence in the related cases (against his co-defendants) demonstrate that he was not at the scene of the commission of the crimes ... at any time."

Parkinson added that the prosecution's case "rests solely on the uncorroborated statements of a co-defendant (Rodolfo Cerritos), who has not yet been tried and remains charged."

Parkinson said he has thoroughly examined the evidence, including "numerous tape recordings and oral statements" of Cerritos, who would be willing to testify for the prosecution under a grant of "limited immunity."

However, Parkinson said, "the prosecution verily believes that it could not sustain its burden of proof if it proceeded against this defendant before a jury based solely upon the testimony of a like-charged co-defendant."

Samano-Santoyo remained at the Ford County Jail following the dismissal of the charges against him. That is because an immigration hold has been placed on Samano-Santoyo, who is an illegal immigrant.

Samano-Santoyo is a relative of one of the other suspects, Eduardo Samano, 22, of Berwyn. Also charged are the 25-year-old Cerritos, a Paxton resident; and Evigan J. Marcos, 25, of Loda. All have pleaded not guilty.

The younger Samano has been released from jail after posting bond, while Cerritos and Marcos both remained there Monday on a $250,000 bond.

Jury trials for each defendant are set for Oct. 14. Samano's next pretrial hearing is at 9 a.m. Aug. 18. Status hearings for Cerritos and Marcos are set for Aug. 11.

Paxton police officer Chad Johnson testified at a preliminary hearing for the three men in February that the victim — Joel Hastings of rural Paxton — was forced into his car, restrained and beaten with a gun and baseball bat as two Hispanic men drove him around Ford and Iroquois counties.

The two men also robbed Hastings of $300 in cash that he had in his possession, plus two credit cards, a cell phone and two profit-sharing checks written to Hastings from his employer. They let Hastings leave under the condition he later provide them with $50,000 in cash or "the same value in drugs," Johnson said.

Cerritos was arrested after he was seen retrieving $50,000 in cash that the FBI had placed in a garbage can at the park in Loda on Jan. 15. Johnson said the kidnappers told Hastings to leave the money at the park earlier that day.

Cerritos and Marcos admitted to police after their arrest that they were in the vehicle with Hastings. Both told police that Samano picked them up from the scene. Police later said Samano-Santoyo was the "mastermind" behind the crime.

Will Brumleve is editor of the Paxton Record, a News-Gazette newspaper. For more, visit paxtonrecord.net.

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