April 4, 2006
Murder of Darnell Washington: Gonzales seeks forgiveness after plea on weapons charge
JOLIET — After Joseph Gonzales admitted his involvement in the murder of Darnell Washington, he asked the young man's parents to leave their seats in the small courtroom and join him before the judge.
Then he turned and looked at Charles and Yvonne Washington of Lockport.
They didn't move at first. After all, Gonzales, 26, had just pleaded guilty to aggravated discharge of a firearm in the November 2001 shooting death of their son. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the crime.
"I don't know whether or not they want to be up here," Will County Judge Robert Livas told Gonzales.
Yvonne Washington stood up.
"I want to hear it," she said. She walked to Gonzales and stared him straight in the eye. Her husband followed.
Gonzales then began to read from a small piece of paper. He begged the family to forgive him and said the couple actually had changed his life.
By urging Will County State's Attorney Jim Glasgow to file criminal charges against him, the couple had helped him, Gonzales said. The arrest forced him to change his ways, and he had become a more spiritual person.
"Evil men do not receive justice," he said, tears running down his face. His shackled hands shook.
Yvonne Washington wasn't willing to let him off the hook.
"It's too bad you didn't find God before you took my son," she spat. Gonzales doesn't know what has happened to her family since the murder, she said. The couple moved out of their longtime Joliet home because her husband sometimes thought he heard their dead son calling to them.
"How dare you stand there and try to tell me you are sorry!" she said. "What are you sorry for? Being caught? I'll never forget what you took from me."
But Gonzales didn't kill the 24-year-old. Someone else did.
A few days before he died, Darnell Washington intervened when Paul Quintero, 29, got into a fight with his girlfriend. That made Quintero mad. On Nov. 1, 2001, Darnell Washington was partying with Gonzales and Quintero, Will County Assistant State's Attorney Neil Adams explained Monday. While they were heading somewhere else, Quintero asked Darnell Washington to stop the car, Adams said. Quintero stepped out so he could urinate and then pumped 11 shots into his friend, Adams said.
Darnell Washington's body was found the next day on Farrell Road near U.S. 6.
But Quintero never has been charged with the murder. The authorities know where he is: Quintero is serving a 38-year sentence at Pontiac Correctional Center for the 2000 murder of another friend from Joliet, 17-year-old Michael Ceja.
"We will charge him when the case is ready," Adams said Monday.
Gonzales wasn't arrested until last summer. Although Washington's parents repeatedly asked former Will County State's Attorney Jeff Tomczak to file charges in the case, nothing happened. When Glasgow was elected in 2004, the couple asked for his help, and Gonzales later was arrested.
"The murder of Darnell Washington was a senseless killing," Glasgow said Monday. "And it is important that his parents see justice done."
Originally, Gonzales was charged with murder because he knew what happened to Darnell Washington and was accountable for the crime, Adams said. Now he has agreed to testify against Quintero.
Charles Washington waits for that day.
"I just want (Quintero) to be charged," Charles Washington said.
But it won't be enough for his wife.
"I just want it to be over with," she said.
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