- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

HILLSBORO, Ore. (AP) - Oregon jurors have convicted a man of murder in a case in which the defendant’s father was jailed for 2½ years so he couldn’t avoid taking the witness stand in his son’s trial.

Washington County jurors took about nine hours to decide Eloy Vasquez-Santiago was guilty of murdering the woman who vanished after their date, The Oregonian reported (https://is.gd/XvmOCR). A judge in the Portland suburb of Hillsboro read the verdict Tuesday afternoon.

A 55-year-old mother of six, Maria Bolanos-Rivera never returned from the outing on Aug. 26, 2012. The two had met working in the nearby berry fields.

A short time later, Vasquez-Santiago and his family moved to California and he continued on to Mexico.

When police arrested the defendant’s father and brother a few weeks later and held them as key witnesses, Vasquez-Santiago turned himself in.

He told police he stabbed the woman because she had insulted him and had worn on his nerves. He urged police to free his relatives.

The case was delayed so long in part because the original defense lawyers raised concerns about their client’s mental competency.

The defendant’s brother made a video statement last fall and was released.

The father, Benito Vasquez-Hernandez, wouldn’t answer questions. He finally testified last week that he knew nothing about the case and was released.

Federal and state material witness laws allow for the detention of anyone who might have information about a criminal investigation. Though the use of such laws is not uncommon, it is rare for someone to be held as long as Vasquez-Hernandez was.

Police never found the woman’s body.

As the trial wrapped up Friday, defense lawyer Timothy Bowman argued that without physical evidence there was no proof of a murder.

But Senior Deputy District Attorney Jeff Lesowski said the case was strong. Vasquez-Santiago cleaned up the physical evidence and fled the jurisdiction to evade detection, the prosecutor said.

“He came back to the U.S., thankfully, and turned this unsolved homicide into a solved case,” Lesowski said.

Sentencing was set for Monday.

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Information from: The Oregonian, https://www.oregonlive.com

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