- Associated Press - Saturday, July 2, 2016

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A jury has found a Madison man guilty of killing a police drug informant.

The five-woman, seven-man panel deliberated for about seven hours Friday before finding 28-year-old Juan Aguilar-Vargas guilty of being a party to first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse, the Wisconsin State Journal reported (https://bit.ly/29dXaSX).

He faces a mandatory life sentence on the homicide charge; the only question is whether Dane County Circuit Judge Ellen Berz will allow him to apply for supervised release at some point. The report says the earliest judges can allow first-degree intentional homicide convicts to seek release is 20 years into their sentence. He faces up to an additional decade of prison and extended supervision for hiding a corpse, the report added.

Investigators say Aguilar-Vargas and Rudy Ramirez-Milian stabbed Jacob Payne in an auto shop in the town of Burke in April 2015. They say the two wrapped his body in chain and dropped it in Lake Mendota. A canoeist discovered the body four days later.

Payne was working as a state and federal informant and had bought cocaine from Ramirez-Milian but nothing indicates his work was a motive for the slaying, the newspaper reported.

Two witnesses said Ramirez-Milian began stabbing Payne and called Aguilar-Vargas over to help. Aguilar-Vargas then stabbed Payne and hit him in the head with a sledgehammer, they said.

Aguilar-Vargas’ attorney, David Geier, said during closing arguments that the witnesses were mistaken about what they saw because they had been drinking and their memories have become distorted over time. Assistant District Attorney Robert Jambois countered that it made sense that Aguilar-Vargas hit Payne with the sledgehammer because Ramirez-Milian’s hands had badly cut his own hands while stabbing Payne.

Ramirez-Milian pleaded guilty last month to a reduced count of being a party to second-degree intentional homicide.

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