YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Jurors in Hackensack today convicted a Cliffside Park man of all counts for his role in the murder and dismemberment of a popular neighborhood cook.
Although a defense attorney argued that he didn’t share the intent to kill the victim, jurors found 37-year-old Wilfredo Sanchez guilty of the murder and desecration of the body of Francisco Gonzalez Fuentes, along with seven other offenses that including hiding evidence.
Sanchez remained impassive as the jury forewoman read the charges, then flexed his jaw muscles nervously as she finished. Altogether, jurors deliberated for about four hours following the two-week trial and re-reads of testimony.
Fuentes’s sisters sobbed aloud and hugged one another, as well as other spectators, as Bergen County Sheriff’s officers handcuffed and leg-shackled the suited Sanchez. Superior Court Judge Patrick A. Roma revoked his bail and set sentencing for Feb. 28.
“Final justice has been given to Francisco,” Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Wayne Melo told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.
Defense attorney John Weichsel, meanwhile, said: “I’m disappointed in the verdict. I had hoped the jury would be able to separate the conduct of Pedro Garcia from that of Wilfredo Sanchez.”
Garcia told jurors last week in graphic detail how he stabbed Fuentes in the neck, killing him, and then cut up and disposed of the body in garbage bags around town with Sanchez, following a party at the apartment that Garcia and the 46-year-old victim shared.
Garcia said he was already angry at the openly gay “Frisco” Fuentes who worked as a cook and kitchen helper at Cliffside Park’s Club House Cafe on Palisade Avenue, for telling people that he was his boyfriend.
Garcia testified that Sanchez began beating Fuentes for unzipping his pants as he slept. Garcia said he got a knife from the kitchen and stabbed Fuentes in the neck and that he and Sanchez sliced up the body, beginning with the head and an arm.
After the deed was done and the parts scattered, Garcia said, Sanchez cleaned up the apartment.
But Fuentes’ sister came by and police were soon on their tails.
Fuentes’ head was found behind St. Demetrius Melkite-Greek Church on Cliff Street, down the block from the apartment he shared with Garcia. A search turned up other parts.