YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Jurors in Hackensack today convicted a Cliffside Park man of killing a popular chef and kitchen worker whose body parts were found in bags near his apartment.
Pedro Angel Garcia, 36, remained expressionless as the verdict was read after nearly four hours of deliberations. In addition to the murder conviction, Garcia was convicted of disturbing human remains, criminal weapons possession and hindering apprehension, among other counts.
Garcia killed his live-in boyfriend, 46-year-old Francisco Gonzalez Fuentes, at a Jan. 8, 2011 party in town by stabbing him in the neck with a large knife, the jurors agreed. He then cut up the victim’s body with the help of another man, Wilfredo Sanchez, they found.
Bergen County prosecutors said Garcia and Fuentes were in a romantic relationship and that Garcia was very upset when Fuentes “outed” him by telling people that he was his boyfriend.
Prosecutors produced surveillance footage showing Garcia carrying a laundry bag, as well as a black garbage bag that he dropped on the sidewalk as he kept walking, the day after the killing. They said he picked it up on the way back from the laundry and dumped it behind a hardware store.
Garcia insisted he wasn’t gay and told jurors that he was incensed when Gonzalez Fuentes indicated otherwise — leading defense attorney Robert Kalish to suggest a manslaughter charge, which carries a lesser penalty than murder, might have been in order. Kalish also suggested that Sanchez possibly could have killed the victim.
Sanchez’s trial is to begin later this year. It’s too soon to tell whether Garcia will agree to testify in exchange for possible leniency at sentencing, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 10. He faces up to life in prison — as does Sanchez, if convicted.
Because the apartment where Gonzalez Fuentes was stabbed was so small, and he was believed involved in the dismemberment, Sanchez, like Garcia, was charged with murder, prosecutors said at the time. Sanchez also is charged with weapons possession, desecration of human remains and hindering apprehension.
All three were the only remaining members of a party at the couple’s home when the stabbing occurred, prosecutors said.
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, and his lower body and arms in another bag at a nearby construction site.
A third bag containing the 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.”
“Frisco” Gonzalez Fuentes, a native of El Salvador, worked as a cook and kitchen helper at the Club House Cafe on Palisade Avenue. Authorities said he was in a romantic relationship with Garcia, who they said became upset when the victim told others about it.
Gonzalez Fuentes was officially reported missing in a 911 call to Cliffside Park police the following day.
A K9 search by Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino’s investigators that began at the apartment very quickly turned up the two garbage bags, Molinelli said.
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