Updated: Rock Island man found guilty in fatal stabbing

Updated: Rock Island man found guilty in fatal stabbing

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Update: Jose Yanez has been found guilty on both counts.

When Antonio A. Ortiz Jr., walked out of his house for the last time early on Dec. 16, Kaleigh Polley followed, hoping to convince him to return home.

But she fell behind on the block-and-a-half walk to Jose Yanez’s Rock Island house in the 2200 block of 17th Street, and she lost sight of the angry Ortiz, she testified Thursday at Yanez’s murder trial. When she saw Ortiz again, he was lying facedown in Yanez’s yard.

At first, she told him he needed to get up. Then she realized his breathing was not normal.

“So I rolled him over onto his back, and that’s when I noticed there was blood on his shirt,” Polley said Thursday.

When she pulled up his shirt, she realized Ortiz had been stabbed. She called Ortiz’s mother and she also called 911.

Yanez, 29, of Rock Island, has been charged with second-degree murder.

But Yanez has contended in court filings that he was defending himself and his property from Ortiz, 30, of Rock Island, during that Dec. 16 encounter, so his killing was justified. 

Yanez is basing his arguments on Illinois statute concerning self-defense and defense of the dwelling, the filing states. The details are spelled out in the Illinois Criminal Code under Justifiable Use of Force.

Prosecutors have argued Yanez’s belief that deadly force was necessary during the encounter was unreasonable under the circumstances.

Yanez also faces a charge of domestic battery, court records state. He is accused of hitting a woman on the same day Ortiz was killed, which led to the encounter between the two men.

Thursday’s proceedings included testimony from the woman Yanez is accused of striking, who is a relative of Ortiz, and a juvenile relative of Yanez who was in the home when the stabbing occurred.

The Dispatch-Argus is not identifying the woman because she is listed as a victim of the alleged assault. The juvenile is also not identified because of his age.

The woman, who was dating Yanez at the time Ortiz was killed, testified that she, Yanez, Ortiz and others went out together on the night of Dec. 15. Around 3:30 or 4 a.m., she and Yanez went home.

Once home, the woman testified that she and Yanez got into a quarrel and he hit her, bloodying her nose. She said she may have put hands on Yanez as well, but she was trying to push him away.

She walked to Ortiz’s nearby house. He was not there, but the door was unlocked. She cleaned herself up with paper towels and tried to go to sleep.

Ortiz returned shortly after and saw her and the paper towels, she said. He got upset, though the woman told him to let it be.

Yanez's house

The juvenile testified he stayed at Yanez’s house on Dec. 15 and 16. He heard the quarrel between Yanez and the woman but did not see it; he did see her leave to walk back to Ortiz's house.

Later, the boy was sleeping on an air mattress in the living room near the front door when someone started banging on the door and yelling, he testified. Yanez was sitting nearby and told the person to go home.

The knocking eventually stopped, but then happened twice more, the teen said.

The second time was more aggressive and the person outside said he was going to f— someone up. He asked Yanez to call the police, but Yanez said the guy at the door couldn’t get inside and would eventually cool off.

At some point during the knocking, the boy thought he saw Yanez with a knife, he testified. Yanez also suggested the boy arm himself, and that if the man outside got Yanez on the ground, the boy needed to help him.

The third knocking was also aggressive, and the boy said he thought the person, whom he did not know by name, was trying to break the window. The teen told the court he went to Yanez, who was nearby, and Yanez told him to call the police. Yanez went to the door.

The boy said it was then the stabbing happened, though he could not say for sure what he saw. He said he could not work the phone, and when Yanez came back, he was the one who called 911.

Polley's testimony about Ortiz's house

Polley said after the outing, at about 4 or 4:30 a.m., she went to Ortiz’s house. 

When Polley and Ortiz got to his home, they found the woman whom Yanez is accused of assaulting, Polley said. Her account was similar to the woman’s: Ortiz saw the bloody paper towels on the floor and became angry.

Polley testified that Ortiz then went to Yanez’s house and banged on the door. She followed, and with the help of Ortiz’s mother, who showed up not long after, she convinced him to go home. Ortiz’s mother then left.

Back at his own house, Ortiz got angry again and returned to Yanez’s home, Polley said. She followed him, but by the time she caught up, he was lying wounded in the yard. 

As she waited with Ortiz, she could see someone else — “Jose (Yanez) was standing in his doorway,” she testified.

Polley said she asked Yanez what he’d done, but he said nothing.

“He just stood there,” she said.

There was a security camera operating in Yanez’s home that recorded the final encounter between him and Ortiz, according to the authorities.

It was presented as evidence, but Judge Norma Kauzlarich viewed it in private.

Closing arguments

Though Kauzlarich viewed the video outside the courtroom, Assistant State’s Attorney Catherine L. Runty referenced the footage in her closing arguments Thursday afternoon.

In the security footage, Yanez could be heard saying he could kill Ortiz because he was being threatened, Runty said. She said Yanez also went through several physical motions that she argued was him preparing to stab Ortiz.

Yanez, Runty said, was so caught up in his reasoning, he could not see what was in front of him.

She argued Ortiz broke the glass out of the door, but once he saw Yanez, he stopped trying to get in and started yelling instead. At that point, Ortiz just wanted to yell, but Yanez approached and stabbed him.

Dan Dalton, Yanez’s attorney, argued that Ortiz intended to harm Yanez. 

The defense attorney said that as soon as the door glass started to crack, Yanez told the boy to call 911.

Whatever happened before the glass broke was irrelevant, Dalton said. Before the glass began to break, Ortiz was outside.

At the time he was stabbed, Ortiz was committing a home invasion, Dalton said, and the law supports his client’s use of deadly force.

The trial lasted for about four hours between two separate sessions on Thursday. It was a bench trial, which means a judge, not a jury will decide the verdict. Kauzlarich is the judge for the case.

Kauzlarich said she wished to deliberate after the attorney’s final arguments concluded Thursday afternoon. Deliberations will resume Friday. 

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