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Cops: Guilty conscience led to confession in mistaken ID murder

NadiPalacios. Photo/Waukegan Police Dept.

Nadia Palacios. Photo/Waukegan Police Dept.

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Updated: July 23, 2012 7:46AM

Nadia Palacios was taken into custody after her boyfriend allegedly fired a shotgun at a car and a lawn ornament to “impress her.”

But when Waukegan police and Cook County investigators questioned her on Sunday, her guilty conscience got the best of her and she confessed to something far more serious — a nearly year-old murder that turned out to be a case of mistaken identity, authorities said.

Palacios, 22, told investigators she tortured and helped kill a man she believed had sexually assaulted her last year. The confession led to the arrests of other culprits in David Campbell’s gruesome murder, Waukegan police said.

Campbell, however, was the wrong guy.

Lured by a phony drug deal, the 27-year-old walked into a deadly ambush at a Waukegan body shop, where he was tortured with a blowtorch, beaten with a hammer and then strangled to death, Lake County prosecutors said.

Palacios allegedly wielded the blowtorch, burning Campbell’s groin before the Waukegan man was killed, authorities said.

The five people charged with Campbell’s July 5, 2011, murder were mistaken — police concluded he did not commit the July 1 sexual assault, Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Ari Fisz said Thursday.

Campbell’s body — wrapped in plastic — was discovered in a pond a day later near Barrington.

The chain of events allegedly began when Palacios, Roberto Guzman and a friend were tied up by four masked men in Palacios’ Waukegan home. One of the men then sexually assaulted Palacios, authorities said.

Afterward, Palacios and Guzman allegedly talked to others and became convinced Campbell — whom they knew — had carried out the assault, Fisz said. A source said Palacios might have been led to believe Campbell was the prime suspect because he had similar shoes as her attacker.

Guzman, 24, of Waukegan, allegedly arranged a phony drug deal to lure Campbell to the auto body shop where Campbell was attacked as he stepped inside an office, authorities said.

Eric Castillo, of Beach Park, knocked Campbell to the ground, Fisz said. Another man, Jose Horta, 19, of Waukegan, pointed a pistol at Campbell while Castillo stripped his clothes off.

Questioned by the men about the sexual assault, Campbell denied any involvement. But Castillo, 24, allegedly hit him in the head with a claw hammer, Fisz said, then pulled a clear plastic bag over his head and secured it with a zip tie.

Palacios then used the blowtorch on Campbell’s groin, Fisz said. Castillo strangled him moments later with the zip tie, authorities said.

Horta and another man wrapped Campbell in plastic and then drove to the Barrington area to dump his body in the Penny Road Pond, Fisz said.

Palacios and Guzman drove Campbell’s car to northwest Indiana and abandoned it there.

Guzman was denied bail. Bail was set at $5 million for Castillo, $3 million for Horta and $2 million for Palacios.

A warrant has been issued for a fifth person also suspected of being involved in the attack.

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