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Carlos Angel DIAZ SANTIAGO

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

   
 
 
Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Angered because his former girlfriend ended their relationship
Number of victims: 4
Date of murder: April 20, 2000
Date of arrest: Next day
Date of birth: 1977
Victims profile: His former girlfriend Candace Wertz, 20, her son John Michael Cortez, 2, and Cynthia Jacques, 22, and her daughter, Allissa, 2
Method of murder: Pushing the victim's car into the path of a freight train
Location: Reading, Pennsylvania, USA
Status: Sentenced to 160 years in prison on February 1, 2001
 
 
 
 
 
 

Man Jailed After Car Is Hit by Train, Killing 4

The New York Times

Saturday, April 22, 2000

A man who the police said rammed his former girlfriend's car into the path of a train, killing her and three others, was arrested today and charged with homicide.

The woman, Candace Wertz, had made a frantic 911 call on her cellular phone and was talking to a dispatcher when the train hit her car on Thursday, the police said.

Her former boyfriend, Carlos Angel Diaz Santiago, 22, of West Reading, Pa., was arrested this morning.

Ms. Wertz, 20, and her 2-year-old son, John Michael Cortez, died in the crash, as did Cynthia Jacques, 22, and her daughter, Allissa, 2.

 
 

Man Used Train to Murder Ex-Girlfriend

Man Killed Four By Shoving Car into Train's Path

By Gina Cappello - Abcnews.go.com

January 23, 2001

A man angered because his former girlfriend ended their relationship has been convicted of pushing her car into the path of a freight train, killing her and three others.

Carlos Angel Diaz, of West Reading, was found guilty Monday of four counts of third-degree murder in the deaths of his ex-girlfriend, Candace Wertz, another woman and their two toddlers. If convicted of first-degree murder, he could have been sentenced to death.

Diaz, 23, bowed his head as the verdict was read. His mother held her head down and sobbed; the victims' families choked back tears but otherwise said nothing.

"We know, we have no doubt in our mind that he didn't do that," Diaz's sister, Liz Ruiz, said outside the courtroom.

Wertz's sister, Shelly Wendeln, issued a statement on behalf of her family.

"We feel the third-degree does not reflect true justice but it will keep Carlos Diaz away from the public," she said.

Diaz was also convicted of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and risking a catastrophe. He could be sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison for each of the four murder convictions; sentencing was scheduled for Jan. 31.

High-Speed Chase

The jury deliberated three days before reaching its verdict. Jurors refused to speak to reporters as they left the courthouse.

The prosecution has said Diaz rammed Wertz's car after chasing her at speeds of up to 60 mph because he was upset she had broken up with him. A one-year protection-from-abuse order that Wertz obtained against Diaz expired 20 days before her death.

"We're satisfied with the verdict. We wish it was first-degree but this is fair based on the evidence," District Attorney Mark Baldwin said. "We find this a victory in this case."

Defense attorney Allan L. Sodomsky was pleased the jury rejected the first-degree murder charges.

"People automatically decided that Diaz deserved the death penalty. If you're interested in this case, you know what really happened," Sodomsky said. "The jury listened to everything."

Sodomsky had claimed the April 20 crash in the Reading suburb of Sinking Spring was accidental.

Angry Words

But a passenger in Diaz's car at the time of the crash testified that Diaz purposely rammed Wertz's car onto the tracks. Michael Ortega said Diaz pushed the accelerator on his car as the 8,000-ton Norfolk Southern train approached.

"He said 'Where you going to go, you bitch? The train's coming. You can't do nothing now,"' Ortega testified. "He was really angry, his face was red, his veins were bulging."

Killed were Wertz, 20; her 2-year-old son John Michael Cortez; Cynthia Jacques, 22; and her daughter Allisa, 2.

The deaths happened three months after Diaz was released from serving a four- to 23-month prison sentence for a parole violation.

The trial began Jan. 8. The jury of six men and six women was picked in Northampton County because Berks County President Judge Albert A. Stallone ruled that heavy news coverage in Berks would make it hard to find an impartial jury there.

 
 

Life Sentence in Train-Track Deaths

Los Angeles Times

February 01, 2001

A man was sentenced to 160 years in prison for killing four people, including his girlfriend and her toddler son, by ramming their car into the path of a freight train.

Carlos Angel Diaz Santiago, 23, of West Reading, told the Reading court he regretted the gruesome deaths last April of his girlfriend, Candace Wertz, 20; her 2-year-old son, John Cortez; Wertz's friend, Cynthia Jacques, 22; and Jacques' 2-year-old daughter, Allisa.

Diaz, who was convicted on four counts of third-degree murder last week, got the maximum penalty. He was seen arguing with Wertz before killing her.

 
 

Carlos A. Díaz Santiago

Littlestangels.net

Sinking Spring, PA -- April 21, 2000

The man accused of killing his ex-girlfriend, another woman and two children by ramming their car into the path of a freight train in Sinking Spring was apprehended in Reading.

Carlos A. Diaz-Santiago, 22, was found by city police in a house, after police received tips as to his whereabouts.

Diaz-Santiago rammed a car driven by Candace Wertz, 20, onto railroad tracks that cross Columbia Avenue near the Sinking Spring Elementary School, state police said.

An eastbound Norflok-Southern train smashed into the car, killing Wertz, of 1053 Penn Ave., Sinking Spring; her son, John M. Cortez, 2; a friend, Cynthia Jacques, 22, of 1110 Broadway Ave., Stony Creek Mills; and her daughter, Alissa, 2.

All but the infant girl were thrown from the car when it was struck by the train.

Cynthia Jacques and John Cortez were certified dead at the scene by Berks County First Deputy Coroner Brian K. Houp; Alissa Jacques was taken to Reading Hospital, where she was certified dead by emergency room staff; and Candace Wertz was flown to Brandywine Hospital, near Coatesville, were she died shortly after arrival in the emergency room, officials said.

Diaz-Santiago turned around and drove away from the wreckage. The car he drove was located about an hour later in northwest Reading by city police, investigators said.

Diaz-Santiago, a resident of the 400 block of Chestnut Street, West Reading, and a second man in the car were taken into custody without incident, police said.

Wertz and Diaz-Santiago had a prior relationship and she had obtained a Protection-From-Abuse order against him, but it had apparently expired, according to Lt. Edward H. Snyder, the commander of the Criminal Investigations division of Reading based Troop L.

Troopers were about to get a warrant signed for Diaz-Santiago when he was found, officials said.

The charges include homicide, aggravated assault and risking a catastrophe, according to Snyder.

Authorities gave this account:

Wertz and Diaz-Santiago became involved in a vehicle chase starting near the McDonald's restaurant at routes 422 and 724. Wertz then drove onto Columbia Avenue from 422.

At the time, Wertz made a frantic cellular phone call to the Berks County Communications Center. She remained on the telephone with a call-taker about five minutes until the car was pushed into the path of the train.

When Wertz's car reached the railroad crossing, the gates were down and four other cars were waiting for the train.

Wertz drove into the oncoming lane and stopped short of the tracks, then Diaz-Santiago's car struck the rear of hers, pushing her car closer to the tracks.

Diaz-Santiago again rammed Wertz's car, pushing it into the path of the train.

Cynthia Jacques had opened the passenger side front door and was trying to get out when the train hit the car.

The eastbound train was traveling about 40 mph on the middle set of tracks when the impact occurred, investigators said. The car was pushed about 50 yards before it was thrown onto a parallel track.

Diaz-Santiago turned around and headed back on Columbia Avenue toward Penn Avenue, knocking over a street sign as he swerved onto the sidewalk to get around a stopped vehicle.

Several witnesses got the license plate number of the car and it was traced to an address in the 600 block of Weiser Street.

A friend had loaned the car to Diaz-Santiago, but Snyder did not release his name or the name of the friend in the car.

Police said the train engineer tried to stop the train. The engine came to a halt about a quarter-mile away on a bridge over Route 724.

Harry Reichert, terminal trainmaster at the Reading office of Norfolk Southern Railroad, said the train's crew was removed soon after the accident and was replaced when the train was moved.

"The crew was really shook up," Reichert said. "This was a horrible, horrible tragedy."

Joe Arbogast of West Lawn was sitting in his car at the Hull Street crossing about 300 yards east of the Columbia Avenue crossing waiting for the train to pass when he saw it stop.

"I thought that was strange, so I got out and looked," he said.

When Arbogast looked down the tracks, he saw three of the victims lying on the railroad tracks.

"I ran to the boy and a woman, and they weren't breathing," he said. "Then I saw another girl, and I went to her, and she was semi-conscious. I tried to help her move, and I talked to her to comfort her until emergency people arrived. Then I prayed. It's really sad."

Arbogast said he was unaware another person was trapped in the car.

 

April 22, 2000 --

Friends and family say the final terrifying moments of Candace Wertz's life followed five years of abuse from the boyfriend suspected of using his car to push hers in front of a freight train.

"It's so horrible that no one was able to get to her in time to help," said Tammy Wertz, Candace Wertz's sister-in-law. "But something should have been done about this guy a long time ago. She tried to get away from him and she just couldn't."

On Saturday, several sources revealed the contents of Wertz's frantic 911 call made before she was struck by the train Thursday night.

Driving her car at high speeds through a residential neighborhood, Wertz grabbed her cell phone and desperately told a 911 operator to send police because her ex-boyfriend was chasing her.

With the shrieking of tires coming to a halt in the background, Wertz told the operator that she had a protective order against the man pursuing her, but that it had expired.

The roar of three giant crashes then overwhelms Wertz's voice and she screams something about the window cracking. Finally, the phone goes dead.

"Her boyfriend was banging into her car as she was talking. It sounded like he took off her side mirror," Eric Olena, assistant director of the 911 center, said in Saturday's Reading Eagle. "She sounded panicky. You could tell it was serious."

Wertz had stopped at the railroad crossing to let the train pass and was just blocks away from a police station near Reading, about 50 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

All on board Wertz's car -- her 2-year-old son, John Michael Cortez; Cynthia Jacques, 22; and Jacques' daughter Allissa, 2 -- were killed in the crash.

Carlos Angel Diaz Santiago, 22, was arrested Friday and charged with four counts of murder and aggravated assault.

Another dispatcher who heard a tape of the call said Wertz never gave enough detail for police to locate her.

The tape of the five-minute conversation reveals the two women in the car were trying to keep their crying children calm. Police believe the crashes heard on the tape are Santiago pushing Wertz's car onto the train track. A scream follows, then the phone went silent.

Eileen Myers, 65, who owns a coffee shop in the shopping center beneath Wertz's apartment, said she felt Wertz had been in mortal danger for months.

"It's one of those things where you wished you had known what to do, but there weren't any easy answers," Myers said.

TRIAL

Jan. 9, 2001 --

A Berks County man accused of killing his ex-girlfriend and three others by pushing her car into an oncoming freight train was enraged because she had broken off their relationship, a prosecutor said Monday.

Carlos Angel Diaz, 22, went on trial on four counts of homicide and other charges in the April 20 deaths of his ex-girlfriend Candace Wertz, another woman and their two toddlers.

"Candace Wertz was trying to end a relationship. She was trying to break free of the defendant and start life anew," Berks County District Attorney Mark. C. Baldwin said. "The defendant didn't want the relationship to end."

Diaz has pleaded innocent. His lawyer, Allan L. Sodomsky, deferred his opening statement until after the prosecution presents its case. He has maintained that the crash was accidental.

Before the jury was brought in the courtroom, President Judge Albert A. Stallone ruled that a tape of a frantic 911 call Wertz made from her cell phone just before the crash was admissible as evidence. The tape was played for the jury Monday afternoon.

On it, a 911 operator could be heard unsuccessfully trying to figure out Wertz's location as she sped through suburban Reading streets, followed by Diaz.

"We need help. There is a car trying to run us off the road," Wertz told the 911 dispatcher. "We have children in the car and he's trying to run us off the road."

The 911 call was placed at 4:38 p.m., about seven minutes before her car was hit by the train.

Baldwin said Diaz had been looking for Wertz all afternoon — growing angrier with each passing minute — and began the chase after he spotted her car.

The chase reached speeds of 60 miles per hour as Diaz pursued Wertz for about 30 minutes through Sinking Spring, a town of about 2,400 people located 50 miles northwest of Philadelphia, and surrounding areas.

Wertz finally stopped her car at the railroad tracks in Sinking Spring to wait for an oncoming freight train. Diaz allegedly maneuvered his car behind hers.

Baldwin said a passenger in Diaz's car, Michael Ortega, will testify that Diaz said of Wertz, "Where you going to go you bitch? The train's coming."

At that point, Baldwin said, "Diaz gripped the wheel, pushed the accelerator and pushed Candace's Ford Tempo into a moving freight train."

David Bingaman, a prosecution witness, said he saw Diaz chasing Wertz in the nearby borough of West Lawn.

"The driver was screaming. He was yelling. His hands were waving," Bingaman said.

About 15 minutes later, Bingaman came upon the train crossing in Sinking Spring, saw two large clouds of dust, then watched Diaz flee the scene in his car.

Bingaman said he walked to the tracks and saw two women and a child lying near them.

"Someone said they were dead," Bingaman said.

Killed were Wertz; her 2-year-old son, John Michael Cortez; Cynthia Jacques, 22; and her daughter Allissa, 2.

In the courtroom Monday, the victims' relatives packed one side of room and several of Diaz's relatives sat on the other side.

The jury of six men and six women was brought in from Northampton County because of heavy news coverage in Berks County. The jurors are being bused home each night, although Stallone could decide to sequester them at any point.

Jan. 12, 2001 --

Ignoring her frantic pleas to stop, Carlos Diaz rammed his ex-girlfriend's car, then methodically pushed it into the path of an oncoming freight train, Diaz's passenger testified Thursday.

Diaz uttered chilling words as he pushed the accelerator of his Honda Accord, said Michael Ortega, who was Diaz's sole passenger that day.

"He said, 'Where you going to go, you (expletive)? The train's coming. You can't do nothing now,"' Ortega told a transfixed courtroom. "He was really angry, his face was red, his veins were bulging."'

Diaz, 23, faces the death penalty if found guilty of killing his ex-girlfriend Candace Wertz, another woman and their two toddlers in the April 20 crash near Reading. The defense has maintained the crash was accidental, while prosecutors say Diaz rammed Wertz's car because he couldn't accept that their relationship was over.

Killed were Wertz; her 2-year-old son, John Michael Cortez; Cynthia Jacques, 22; and her daughter Allissa, 2.

Defense attorney Allan L. Sodomsky immediately attacked Ortega's credibility, pointing out several discrepancies between Thursday's testimony and Ortega's initial statement to police the day after the crash.

For example, Ortega testified that Wertz pleaded with Diaz to stop pushing the car.

"She said, 'Stop, I give up!"' Ortega said. "It was summertime, the windows were down, she was yelling it."

Under cross-examination, however, Ortega admitted his statement to police did not mention Wertz asking Diaz to stop.

Ortega also admitted he never called 911 or an ambulance and remained with Diaz until the morning after the crash, when police took them both into custody. Ortega was not charged.

Ortega is expected to take the stand again Friday. He glared at Diaz as he left the courtroom. Diaz remained expressionless throughout the day.

Prosecutors also played phone messages Diaz left in the minutes before the crash on Wertz's voice mail and on the answering machine of Cynthia Jacques.

In an ominous, highly excited voice, Diaz told Wertz and Jacques to "go to hell," then added: "We're going to see how tough you all are."

Jan. 17, 2001 --

In a stunning development Tuesday, a nurse who says she had a clear view of a crash that killed four people testified she never saw Carlos Diaz bump his ex-girlfriend's car into the path of an oncoming freight train.

Reading Hospital nurse Sherree Kelley contradicted the testimony of the prosecution's primary witness, Michael Ortega, who was Diaz's passenger that day and claimed that Diaz rammed Candace Wert's car, then pushed it onto the tracks in front of the Norfolk Southern train last April 20.

Diaz, 23, is charged with four counts of homicide in the crash that killed Wertz, her friend and their two toddlers. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Kelley cried as she described seeing bodies flying through the air as the train hit Wertz's car.

"I saw the two women (sitting) in the front of the car, then they flew out of the car," said Kelley, whose car was first in line at the train crossing in Sinking Spring, about 50 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

Kelley said she saw Wertz's car drifting onto the tracks while Wertz was looking over her left shoulder at Diaz's Honda Accord. Wertz never looked forward before the train hit her, Kelley said.

In his cross examination, Berks County District Attorney Mark Baldwin introduced slightly contradictory statements that Kelley reportedly made to state police the night of the crash.

Trooper Emmanuel DeLeon Jr., who helped interview Kelley that night, testified she said she was "fixated on the first vehicle and did not notice whether the second vehicle hit the first vehicle."

Baldwin asked Kelley if she remembered telling police that.

"I don't know what I said, sir," Kelley replied.

The prosecution has said Diaz rammed his ex-girlfriend's car after chasing her for half an hour at speeds of up to 60 mph because he was upset Wertz had broken up with him.

Killed were Wertz, her 2-year-old son John Michael Cortez, Cynthia Jacques, 22, and her daughter Allisa, 2.

In his opening statement Tuesday, given a week into the trial, defense attorney Allan L. Sodomsky said Kelley had "no ax to grind, nothing to hide" and asked the jury to "keep an open mind until you've heard everything."

Sodomsky called an accident reconstructionist later Tuesday, who testified that the Diaz's Honda could not have been within three feet of Wertz's vehicle at the time of the crash. The Honda would have sustained significant damage as the 8,000-ton train roared by at 47 mph, Carmen Daecher said.

Further, Diaz's car could not have had any prolonged contact with Wertz's because there was no "scrubbing effect" on either car's bumper, said Daecher, who conceded under cross examination that the cars may have bumped briefly at some point.

The defense rested its case Tuesday afternoon and closing arguments were scheduled for Wednesday morning.

Talking to reporters during a break, Diaz's sister said she thought the defense had gone well and that she believed Diaz's version of events.

Liz Ruiz said she talks to Diaz every day and tells him to remain confident.

"We truly believe in the justice system and we know my brother's going to be all right. He told us he didn't do nothing and we believe in him," she said.

In Spanish, Diaz's mother Haydee Santiago said she thought "God was doing his work to bring the truth to light."

Also Tuesday, a man who sold the Honda to Diaz's brother-in-law said the front bumper had been cracked before the crash. Eric Rodriguez said the crack happened while he was the car's owner. The prosecution maintained the bumper was damaged in the collision with Wertz's rear bumper.

VERDICT

Jan. 24, 2001 --

A Pennsylvania man was  convicted of four counts of third-degree murder for flying into a rage over being dumped, engaging his girlfriend in a high-speed car chase and then pushing her vehicle in front of a train, killing her, her son and two other people. 

The jury convicted Carlos Diaz, 23, of West Reading, after deliberating for three days, rejecting defense arguments that the deaths April 20, 2000, resulted from an accident when Diaz inadvertently rear-ended the car driven by Candace Wertz, 20, who had stopped at a train crossing in the Reading suburb of Sinking Spring. 

Diaz will be sentenced Jan. 31. He faces 20 to 40 years on each third-degree murder count. 

The prosecution had sought the death penalty, charging that Diaz rammed Wertz's car after chasing her at speeds of up to 60 mph because he was enraged by her breaking off their relationship. 

A jury of six men and six women was selected from Northampton County in Pennsylvania because of a ruling that heavy news coverage in Berks County had tainted the jury pool there. 

The jurors heard conflicting testimony. A passenger in the Diaz car said the defendant uttered expletives as he rammed the Wertz car, while a witness in another car said she saw no contact between the two vehicles.

SENTENCE

Feb. 2, 2001 --

A West Reading man yesterday was given the maximum penalty - a virtual life sentence - for pushing his former girlfriend's car into the path of a freight train, killing the woman and three others.

Carlos Diaz, 23, stood with his head bowed in Berks County Court as President Judge Albert A. Stallone issued the sentence of 80 to 160 years in prison.

"You already got the greatest mercy; your life has been spared. But you will not get any mercy or leniency from me," Stallone said.

On April 20, Diaz used his sister's white Honda Accord to push Candace Wertz's car into the path of an 8,000-ton freight train traveling at 57 m.p.h. through Sinking Spring, a Reading suburb.

County prosecutors charged Diaz with first-degree murder, but on Jan. 22 a jury found Diaz guilty of four counts of third-degree murder, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and causing and risking a catastrophe.

Yesterday, Diaz spoke for the first time during the trial and expressed remorse. With his hands and feet shackled, Diaz leaned forward to speak into a microphone at the defense table.

"I never wanted anyone to die because of my actions," he said. "I couldn't apologize enough and I know my apologies won't take back April 20, 2000. I'm truly, truly sorry for everything that has happened."

Killed were Wertz, 20, of West Reading; her son, John Michael Cortez, 2; her friend Cynthia Jacques, 22, of Exeter Township; and Jacques' daughter, Alissa, 2. Family members said that Wertz had an abusive relationship with Diaz and that Diaz was enraged that Wertz was leaving him to move to Shippensburg to live with her sister.

During yesterday's sentencing hearing, members of the Wertz and Jacques families tearfully took the stand to plead for a life sentence for Diaz, while Diaz's family begged for a term that would mean that Diaz could one day be released.

Diaz's mother, Haydee Santiago, had to be held back from charging toward members of the Jacques family after the sentencing. Later, Santiago collapsed and paramedics took her to a hospital, where she was treated.

John Cortez, the father of 2-year-old John Michael "J.J." Cortez, could barely contain his rage when he took the stand. Cortez had just lifted his hand from the Bible when he yelled expletives at Diaz.

"Life is too good for him," Cortez said. ". . . I can't sleep. Nothing matters. The only thing I had that was good, he took."

Diaz watched intently during the hearing as members of the Wertz and Jacques families recounted the effect the deaths have had on their lives, but lowered his head and wept as his mother, father and other members of his family tearfully asked the court to issue a sentence that would give them hope.

"I know whatever happened wasn't meant to happen," said Liz Ruiz, Diaz's sister. "If we don't have a chance to be with our brother again, I don't know what will happen to our family."

Diaz legally would not be eligible for parole for 80 years.

After the sentencing, defense attorney Allan L. Sodomsky said: "Obviously, this is not what we wanted.

"But we were prepared for this. We knew this was a possibility, so we are trying to understand."

Some members of the Wertz and Jacques families said they were pleased with the sentence.

"The judge did a great justice," said Cynthia Jacques' mother, Bernice. "Just like I've always said, the day he took their lives was the day he took his own."

 
 


The demolished car after the fatal train collision.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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