EXCLUSIVE: The conviction of a Cliffside Park man in the murder and dismemberment of his live-in boyfriend has moved his co-defendant closer to trial.
Unless he takes a last-minute plea, Wilfredo Sanchez will stand trial in Hackensack for murder and desecration of human remains beginning Dec. 3, Presiding Superior Court Judge Liliana DeAvila-Silebi said yesterday morning.
Jurors will be told to prepare through Dec. 20, the judge told Sanchez.
However, Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Wayne Mello told DeAvila-Silebi things could go quicker if he decides not to use Sanchez’ videotaped statement to police.
Sanchez was the only guest remaining at a January 2011 holiday party with 46-year-old Francisco Gonzalez Fuentes and his live-in lover, Pedro Angel Garcia, 36.
An argument broke out over Gonzales Fuentes telling guests that Garcia was his boyfriend, and the younger man stabbed the popular chef and kitchen worker in the neck with a large knife, killing him.
Sanchez not only witnessed the stabbing, prosecutors say: He helped cut up the victim’s body, stuff it in trash bags and distribute it behind buildings in Cliffside Park, they allege.
Gonzalez Fuentes’ head and torso were later found in a bag behind St. Demetrius Melkite-Greek Church on Cliff Street, down the block from his Palisade Avenue apartment. His lower body and arms were found in another bag at a nearby construction site.
A third bag containing his hands “was thrown across the street from the construction site,” Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli told CLIFFVIEW PILOT at the time, “but we believe a trash hauler may have picked it up.”
Video footage of Garcia carrying and dropping the bags helped convict him last Tuesday after less than a day of deliberations (SEE: Conviction in murder, dismemberment of popular Cliffside Park chef).
Sanchez, like Garcia, was charged with murder because the apartment where Gonzalez Fuentes was stabbed was so small and he was believed involved in the dismemberment, prosecutors said.
It was unclear whether Garcia will testify against Sanchez in exchange for possible leniency at sentencing, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 10.
Garcia faces up to life in prison — as would Sanchez, if convicted at a trial.
STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter