March 31, 2011
A jury deliberated for four hours before finding Pedro Sanchez, 32, guilty of two counts of first-degree murder for the killing of Robert Gooch on May 22, 2009. Another man, Jesus Zambrano, 20, of Joliet, also has been charged with first-degree murder in this case and is awaiting trial.
Sanchez faces between 35 and 75 years in prison when he is sentenced by Circuit Judge Amy Bertani-Tomczak on June 2. He is eligible for an enhanced sentence because the state proved he was armed with a firearm during the commission of this murder.
Sanchez and Zambrano confronted Gooch at the apartment of Gooch’s girlfriend, Ellissa Hinton, according to testimony during the three-day trial. Hinton testified she was having sex occasionally with Sanchez, but that she didn’t want to leave Gooch so their relationship could go further.
Hinton testified she and Gooch had watched the NBA playoffs and had gone to bed on the night of the murder. Later that evening, Gooch answered the apartment’s buzzer while she remained in the bedroom. She testified she heard Sanchez’s voice in the living room and someone saying “my girl” just before she heard a single gunshot.
She went to the living room to find Gooch lying on the floor bleeding from the head. An autopsy later revealed Gooch died from a gunshot wound to the back of the head. Gooch’s two young children were sleeping on a sofa bed in the living room at the time of the murder.
Assistant State’s Attorneys Michael Fitzgerald and Dan Walsh entered into evidence security tapes from the apartment complex showing Sanchez and Zambrano arriving at the parking lot in the defendant’s car, getting out of the vehicle and then returning to the car before driving away.
Another witness testified he saw Zambrano retrieve a gun from under the hood of Sanchez’s car before the two entered the apartment complex.
The gun was never recovered and there was no direct evidence to show specifically whether Sanchez or Zambrano pulled the trigger. However, Fitzgerald and Walsh argued that Sanchez and Zambrano both are accountable under the law, regardless of which one fired the weapon.
Zambrano, who also faces two counts of first-degree murder, is scheduled to appear in court for a pretrial on May 4. The Will County State's Attorney's Office reminds the public that charges and indictments are not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.