Police were sure that Joe was their man (it's always the ex-boyfriend, right?), and with all the evidence at the crime scene they were sure they would be able to connect him to it. However, as results of tests began coming in, there was absolutely nothing that could place Joe at the scene. DNA and fingerprint evidence didn't match him, he had an alibi, no signs of being in any struggle, and no trace evidence was found on him or his clothing.
Some three and a half months later, Alfonso Najera, a family friend of Joe's who Joe only spoke with occasionally, was brought into the Palatine Police Department. Alfonso was a known liar and had a prior conviction in a case of lying to authorities. He was someone police could lean into and pressure. They went to his workplace in Chicago and told him they needed to speak to him outside. With his history, it was not the first time this had happened and Alfonso stepped outside to the police vehicle.
Once he was inside the car, the police started driving, taking Alfonso against his will to the Palatine Police Department and reading him his Miranda rights, although not actually placing him under arrest. They held him there for over twelve hours interrogating him and pressuring him. They showed him graphic pictures of Connie's crime scene. Police aggressively intimidated him, insisting that they knew he had something to do with the murder. They asserted that they knew Joe had something to do with the crime as well, and knew the two of them were connected. Police used every interrogation and intimidation tactic they could, even locking Alfonso in the interrogation room to stew for 20-30 minutes at a time. They continued to push him and would not allow him to leave until he signed a prepared statement that had been written by the lead prosecutor on Connie's case. This statement said that Joe had confessed committing the murder to him a few days after the event. When Alfonso finally caved and signed the composed statement, authorities released him and even rewarded him by treating Alfonso and his foster parents to dinner.
Police now, even without any physical evidence or a time line that made sense, had a statement linking Joe to the crime. Even so, they still did not move on him yet. What they did do was begin three years of close surveillance bordering on harassment of Joe and his family. They would follow him everywhere, bug his phones, and take and search his garbage. They even began following his mother and sister, tracking them and monitoring their calls and activity to the point that they were terrified to go about their own lives.
Police later called Alfonso again and asked him to call Joe on a recorded line, specifically instructing him to bring up the “confession” and confirm it. During a long conversation, Alfonso spoke about many things, but did not bring up Joe's alleged confession despite his instructions. Alfonso had been summoned to testify before a grand jury and told Joe about that summons, as well as the fact that police were still interested in Joe. Several times Joe maintained his innocence and voiced his frustration, to which Alfonso agreed. At any point in this conversation, he could have contradicted Joe's claims of innocence or brought up the supposed confession, but he did not. Key excerpts of transcripts of this phone call can be found in the evidence section of this website.
Police still needed an arrest and wanted to charge Joe for this murder, so despite that call's ineffectiveness and with nothing but their signed statement, they resolved to move forward. For some reason though they still waited over 3 years to make that move. Joe was arrested and charged with Connie Wagner's murder on the February 22nd, 2001. Even then, police and prosecutors said that they could not have moved forward in this case without the signed statement by Alfonso. They still had no physical evidence that implicated Joe. They could not place him at the crime scene or discredit his alibi.
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