Naperville man whose body was found in a dumpster on Chicago’s Southwest Side last year was the target of a burglary plotted by his childhood friend, her boyfriend and her boyfriend’s mother, prosecutors said Saturday, following a bond court hearing for the three people charged in his death.
Cassandra Green, 21, of Rockford, was among the three defendants who appeared in DuPage County, charged with murder in the January 2018 death of Michael Armendariz. Prosecutors said Green, who had known Armendariz since the age of 11, had shown her boyfriend, Ernest Collins, of Rockford, and his mother, Candice Jones, photos of Armendariz on social media posing with large amounts of cash and drugs and argued that the three schemed to rob the 20-year-old Naperville man and then went on to hide his body in a blue garbage can after he was killed.
All three are charged with murder, aggravated kidnapping, armed robbery and concealment of a homicidal death. Green and Collins also are charged with residential burglary.
Green, who prosecutors said made statements to police, and Collins were arrested Monday by Rockford police. Jones was arrested on Feb 6 at her Chicago home, where police recovered the weapon investigators say was used in the killing, along with other items.
Prosecutors also alleged Jones, 38, of Chicago, was the “mastermind” of the crime and provided her son with the gun to shot Armendariz, telling her 22-year-old son “you’re going to do this.” The day after Armendariz was killed, Jones also threatened Green, telling her she would kill her and her mother if Green told anyone about the killing, prosecutors said.
“The allegations that a mother aided, planned, helped and encouraged her own son and her son’s girlfriend to commit an armed robbery and a brutal execution of a young man and then hid and concealed the victim’s body in a blue garbage can are shocking,” DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said during a press conference following bond court. “The facts alleged in this case indicate a complete utter disregard for human life and the rule of law.”
DuPage County Judge David Schwartz on Saturday ordered the three be held without bond. The three, who prosecutors described in court as “stone cold killers,” are scheduled to appear on March 4 for arraignment before DuPage County Judge Jeffrey MacKay.
Armendariz, who prosecutors said was shot twice in the back of the head, was reported missing in January of 2018 after he failed to show up for work. The 20-year-old Naperville man’s roommate was the last to see him on Jan. 14, 2018 as Armendariz got into a black Ford Explorer, which prosecutors on Saturday said was driven by Green.
After Armendariz’s body was discovered, prosecutors said police were able to tie him to Green through social media and records of the black SUV, in which Green had been pulled over by police prior to Armendariz’s death.
Green, who prosecutors said made a confession to police, told investigators that three had tried unsuccessfully to rob Armendariz on at least four occasions prior to Jan. 14, with the first attempt in December of 2017. She told police they had even bought lock pick tools online to break into Armendariz’s apartment but could not break in, prosecutors said.
The night of Armendariz’s death, Collins said, “this is the night” and his mother gave him her gun to carry out the killing, prosecutors said, referring to Green’s statement to police.
Prosecutors said Green and Collins then headed out from Chicago to pick up Armendariz, with Collins hiding in the back of the SUV. Once at Armendariz’s Naperville apartment, Green texted him to say she was in the parking lot, and he came out to meet her and got in the car to head to the Naperville Wal-Mart, where Green and Armendariz planned to steal a bottle of alcohol, prosecutors said.
While the car was in motion, Collins emerged from the back of the car and shot Armendariz twice in the back of the head, prosecutors said. Collins and Green covered his body with a blanket and drove back to Chicago with Armendariz in the front passenger seat, according to prosecutors.
According to prosecutors, when they arrived at Jones’ home, they removed Armendariz’s body from the car, went through his pockets and removed his wallet, a vaping pen, his apartment keys and his phone and then placed him in a blue recycling bin and put his body in Jones’ garage. Jones later told her son to remove Armendariz’s body from her garage, and he placed it in a garage belonging to a vacant home next door, prosecutors said.
Collins and Green also took the apartment keys and burglarized Armendariz’s apartment the next day, prosecutors said.
Though the three burned the blanket and the items removed from Armendariz’s pockets in a fire pit, investigators were able to recover burnt remnants of the items, including a phone believed to have belonged to Armendariz, Berlin said. Prosecutors said investigators also recovered weapons and spent shell casings and the SUV used that evening. Prosecutors stated a blood stain found in the black Ford Explorer matched Armendariz’s DNA.
Berlin said that Jones had called Chicago’s 311 lines several times prior to May 31, when officers came to address her complaints of a strange odor coming from the vacant home next door. Jones told investigators she knew it was Armendariz’s body in the garage and that she wanted to “free his soul,” prosecutors said.
In court Saturday, prosecutors also outlined failed attempts to rob Armendariz. Jones became increasingly frustrated with each failed attempt, according to statements given to police by Green, prosecutors said. In one instance, Jones told Green to lure Armendariz and his roommate with promises of sex so that they could rob the apartment and told Green that she would have to “sell herself” to Armendzriz, prosecutors said.