EXCLUSIVE: A man convicted of murdering a Cliffside Park chef described in graphic detail yesterday how he and his co-defendant cut up the body and disposed of it in garbage bags around town after he stabbed the victim in the neck.
Testifying against Wilfredo Sanchez in a trial that began two weeks ago, Pedro Garcia claimed he wasn’t looking for leniency when he is sentenced.
Rather, Garcia said, he “just wanted to tell the truth of what happened” to Francisco Gonzalez Fuentes, who worked as a cook and kitchen helper at Cliffside Park’s Club House Cafe on Palisade Avenue.
Sanchez (inset, above), the defendant, kept his head down most of the time, occasionally scribbling a note and not talking directly to his attorney.
Garcia (photo) told jurors through a Spanish interpreter that he’d known “Frisco” since 2009 and shared a tiny, two-room apartment with him where Sanchez threw a party on Jan. 8, 2011, a Saturday. He said he cooked for the nine or so guests with food Sanchez bought, and that people drank.
Eventually, Garcia said, only he, Sanchez and Fuentes were left.
After Sanchez fell asleep on the one bed in the combined living/bedroom, Fuentes started unzipping his pants, waking him, Garcia said.
An argument ensued.
Garcia, 36, said he already was angry at the openly gay Fuentes, 46, for telling people that he was his boyfriend. The mother of his infant son began restricting visits as a result, he testified.
Sanchez, 37, pushed Fuentes hard to the floor, breaking a plate, Garcia said, then he grabbed Fuentes by the neck and began hitting him with his right hand, shouting: “I’m not Garcia.”
“I’m going to call the police,” said Fuentes, who then went to the door and opened it, Garcia told jurors.
At that point, Sanchez grabbed Fuentes and hit him again, putting a piece of the broken plate to his neck, he said.
Garcia said he then went into the kitchen and got a “a big knife with a black grip.”
When he returned, he said, the two men were in the bathroom.
Still furious over Fuentes’s claim that they were lovers, Garcia said he stabbed him in the left side of the neck.
“The blood shot out,” he said. “I gave the knife to [Sanchez] and went into the kitchen.”
Garcia said he knew the neck wound had killed Fuentes, which he said had to be done to keep him from going to police. He said he also put on music “because they were making so much noise.”
“I got another knife and came back, and I saw [Sanchez] had stabbed him in the stomach,” Garcia testified. “He was dead.”
Garcia’s older sister, who had been sobbing quietly in the courtroom with her other siblings, got up at that point and left, along with several other spectators.
Then things got grisly.
First, they cut off Fuentes’ head, Garcia testified. Then they removed an arm.
After dumping everything in a nearby parking lot, they decided “it was too big,” Garcia said. “You could see it from far away.”
So they took the body back inside and continued dismembering it, sticking the pieces into garbage bags.
They sprayed disinfectant during the four-hour operation, which Garcia said began at 1 a.m. They also changed gloves and mopped up with rags, clothes, papers and anything they could find, he said.
They then dropped the bags around Cliffside Park — “at the church, at construction, in a parking lot,” he said.
“First, we threw out the three bags to the church,” Garcia said. “I put the legs behind the construction.
“When I came back, [Sanchez] grabbed the knife and opened his stomach,” he continued. “He changed his gloves and started taking out the intestines with his hands.
“The smell was so strong I left out of there. I wanted to throw up,” Garcia said.
Sanchez, meanwhile, “grabbed a bottle of chemical and started spraying it on the stomach because the smell was very strong.”
One knife broke during the procedure, and another had to be sharpened to cut through both legs, Garcia testified.
After throwing the last two bags near a construction site, they returned to the apartment. It was just after 5 a.m.
They got a couple hours sleep, then began to clean up, Garcia said.
The bloody tools, rags, and other items were placed into bags and thrown out. Garcia said he then took their clothes to a nearby laundry while Sanchez cleaned the apartment with bleach.
When he returned, he said, Sanchez “took me to the bathroom and told me ‘Hey, look how I left it all clean. It appears that nothing ever happened’.”
Things changed when Fuentes’ sister came by around noon that day, looking for her brother.
There was no answer, she testified earlier in the trial, so she returned around 5 p.m. and got the landlord to open the door.
Garcia, Sanchez, and Sanchez’ brother were in the bathroom, she said.
“Why didn’t you open the bathroom door?” she said she asked them.
“We were sleeping,” she said they told her.
There was blood on the wall, she said, and “the whole place just reeked.”
So she went to police, who launched a search that night.
Her brother’s head was found behind St. Demetrius Melkite-Greek Church on Cliff Street, down the block from the apartment, the next morning — Monday, Jan. 10. A search turned up other parts the same day.
That Wednesday, detectives from the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office arrested Garcia and Sanchez, charging them with Fuentes’s murder and dismemberment.
Garcia, who was convicted in October, after a jury trial, remains held without bail in the Bergen County jail pending sentencing.
Also there is Sanchez, whose bail is $2 million.
Closing arguments in the case are scheduled for Monday morning.
STORY / FILE PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter