EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

April 16, 2009

Prosecutor: Gang member killed to keep gay lover secret

SALEM, Mass. — Prosecutors said Latin Kings gang member Christian Almonte was at his friend's house on the night of Feb. 24, 2008, just down the street from his secret lover Willie Escobar's Methuen apartment, when his friend said he needed a car.

"(Almonte) said, 'I can get you a ride. Wait here. I don't want you to be scared,'" prosecutor A.J. Camelio told jurors yesterday at the beginning of Almonte's murder trial in Essex Superior Court.

Almonte allegedly left for an hour and came back with Escobar's Toyota Camry. That was an hour before Escobar's roommate came home.

The roommate discovered his room was ransacked and when he went to check on Escobar's room, he found the 41-year-old on the floor in a T-shirt and socks, covered with more than 20 stab wounds. A pornographic movie was playing on the television and a letter on the floor read, "I love you but you know we got to hide what we got."

The apartment door had been locked when the roommate got home. Escobar's apartment keys were on the same ring as the car keys Almonte gave his friend that night, Camelio said.

Camelio made his case against Almonte during yesterday's opening statements, saying the North Andover gang member killed Escobar because he didn't want Escobar breaking the "code of silence" hanging over their secret homosexual relationship. He also was angry that Escobar was sleeping around with other men.

Almonte, 26, who also goes by his gang name "King Joker," is on trial on charges of murder and larceny of a motor vehicle.

Police allege that Almonte and Escobar had been seeing each other before Almonte went to prison for four years for stabbing a Lawrence youth, and continued the relationship when he got out in December 2007.

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