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In April 2000, Oscar Velazquez, a 22-year-old hard-working Chicago truck driver gave 17-year-old Regina DeFrancisco a ride home.
Two months later, she and her sister repaid that favor by shooting him in the back of the head and burning his remains before evading police capture for two years.
On June 6, 2000, the incinerated body of an unidentified Hispanic male was found on the south side of Chicago. Detectives had scant evidence to go on, according to “Killer Siblings,” airing Saturdays at 6/5c on Oxygen.
The victim had been wrapped in a bed sheet with blood on it. Nail polish remover, a possible accelerant, was found nearby.
As authorities sought to identify the victim, they looked for a motive. Gang violence? Robbery? A jealous lover? As they worked their way from ground zero, they confirmed that the cause of death was a bullet to the back of the head.
On June 8, about 36 hours after the discovery of the crime, the victim was identified by his mother as Oscar Velazquez. He’d never been arrested and had no gang affiliations. He was a “good, clean-cut kid,” investigators told “Killer Siblings.”
As detectives dug into the case, their focus turned to Velazquez’s car, a white Camaro, which had gone missing. Witnesses told investigators that the vehicle was seen being driven by two girls.
When the car was eventually recovered, it was gutted and torched “beyond evidentiary value.” There were no telltale fingerprints or evidence to help further detectives’ work in the murder case.
“Whoever did the homicide was trying to cover their tracks … by burning the body and then the car,” Steven Konow, a detective with the Chicago Police Department, told “Killer Siblings.”
However, Velazquez’s phone records provided detectives an invaluable clue, as they looked into conversations he had in the hours preceding his murder.
The logs turned up the name of Regina DeFrancisco, a 17-year-old who lived with her 16-year-old sister, Margaret, and single mother, Nora, in the Lower West Side community of Pilsen, the Chicago Tribune reported in 2004.
Regina had a reputation for being magnetic and charming, according to “Killer Siblings.” Her little sister looked up to her and emulated her. So when Regina started to dabble in questionable behavior, including hanging out with gang member Johnny Rivera, Margaret followed her lead. The girls began to go off the rails.
Caught by narcotics officers in Rivera’s apartment where there was two kilos of cocaine, Regina had been hit with a drug arrest. After a court appearance linked to the bust, she was outside court room and by chance, Velazquez drove past at that time. She asked him for a ride home, and he obliged, according to “Killer Siblings.” The two began dating.
Authorities made a beeline to speak with Regina and Margaret about the Velazquez homicide, Konow told producers, and they found the girls at home.
There, the sisters corroborated each other’s accounts, which were intended to clear the girls from suspicion.
During her interview Regina emphasized her innocence and told investigators that they ought to be looking at Rivera.
But detectives questioned why Regina was pointing the finger at someone else. Rivera was eventually cleared of suspicion, and the 17-year-old girl’s strategy, meant to deflect blame from her, backfired and intensified it.
Investigators focused on Regina and considered the likelihood of Margaret’s involvement.
A week after the slaying, Frank Main, a journalist with the Chicago Sun-Times, told producers that officials had enough evidence to get a warrant to search the DeFrancisco home.
As authorities combed through the residence, various red flags emerged. Sheets in the house matched the pattern of the one in which Velazquez’s body had been wrapped. In the basement, Luminol revealed significant traces of blood that had been cleaned up, Al Graf, detective with the Chicago Police Department, told producers. A bullet casing, a match to the same kind of pistol cartridge used to kill Velazquez, was also found.
But a witness had previously came forward and reported seeing three people loading a heavy object into Velazquez’s trunk. This was the missing piece that remained: Who was the third party spotted on the night of the murder near Velazquez’s car?
The answer soon emerged: the sisters’ friend, Veronica Garcia, 15. On June 22, she was brought in for questioning When asked about events on the night of the homicide, she clammed up and turned evasive.
Authorities told her that she could be charged with murder, and Garcia then detailed what had happened before the murder and during it.
The DeFrancisco sisters had duped Velazquez into believing Regina needed $1,000 for bail money. He gave it to her, and when he asked to get his money back they lured him to their house with the promise of repayment.
The sisters had gotten their hands on a gun with Garcia’s help, and Margaret shot Velazquez as he descended the stairs to the basement, where they’d spread plastic to help hide the crime.
The trio wrapped his body up in sheets, dumped him into the trunk of his Camaro, and drove him to a vacant lot, where they set him ablaze after dousing his body with nail polish remover.
By the time investigators had confirmed that the blood in the DeFrancisco basement belonged to Velazquez, the sisters had fled. In July 2000, U.S. Marshals joined the hunt for the suspect sisters. After months passed, authorities enlisted the help of “America’s Most Wanted” to spread the word about the fugitive family members.
The airing yielded no successful leads, and the case went cold. In March 2002, though, the episode re-aired and officials got a break. Margaret was found in Roscoe, Illinois, and brought back to Chicago to face formal charges.
Seven months later, Regina was finally tracked down in Dallas, after an incident involving a stolen car.
Both sisters were charged with premeditated murder. In July 2004, they were tried together before two separate juries. Regina DeFrancisco’s verdict came back first. She was found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to 35 years in prison.
A day later, a jury was unable to reach a verdict in the case of Margaret DeFrancisco. She “walked out of a Cook County courtroom free on bail,” reported the Chicago Tribune at the time.
She was retried and convicted in December 2004 and sentenced to 46 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.
For her role in concealing the crime, Garcia was sentenced to 5 years in prison.
The DeFrancisco siblings have each filed unsuccessful appeals.
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