Charges filed in Munster homicide

2013-01-02T17:17:00Z 2014-01-20T17:54:37Z Charges filed in Munster homicideSusan Brown and Chelsea Schneider Kirk Times Staff

CROWN POINT | The former husband of a Munster woman was charged Wednesday with her slaying early New Year's Day, police said.

Prosecutors charged Margarito Valdivia, 44, of Chicago, with murder, battery with a deadly weapon and battery resulting in serious bodily injury.

Family members reported the couple's divorce was finalized just this week, Munster police Sgt. Steven Kovacik said.

Court documents show Erica Valdivia filed for divorce Oct. 17, 2012, at which time the couple, the parents of a 9-year-old girl, separated according to family members.

Police responded about 5:45 a.m. Tuesday to a report of a disturbance at a residence in the 800 block of Boxwood Drive in Munster.

Police arriving at the scene found the boyfriend of Erica Valdivia standing outside the home with a large laceration to his head, according to a Wednesday news release.

Unable to gain entry to the home, police called a SWAT team to enter the home, leading to Margarito Valdivia surrendering without further incident.

The body of Erica Valdivia, 33, was found in a bathroom with major trauma to the head and face. The woman was taken to Community Hospital in Munster where she was pronounced dead, police said.

The cause of death remains pending an autopsy by the Lake County Coroner.

Police allege Margarito Valdivia drove to and entered the couple's home where he confronted his wife and her boyfriend.

During the confrontation, Valdivia is alleged to have struck the unidentified man numerous times in the head and face as the man fled the house.

Valdivia is alleged to have then returned to the home where he began beating his wife.

Margarito Valdivia was arrested at the scene and is being held in the Lake County Jail without bond, police said.

Valdivia's apprehension was assisted by the police department's new remote-controlled robot, police said Wednesday. 

Tuesday's incident was the first time Munster's SWAT team has used the equipment at an actual scene, police said during a demonstration of the device Wednesday. 

The approximately $15,000 robot has two cameras, the ability to transmit and hear audio, climb upstairs and right itself. The robot also comes equipped with a spotlight and infrared lighting.

“We send in a robot and have it explore the whole house without jeopardizing officers,” Kovacik said. “The officers can stay back a safe distance, so you aren't jeopardizing safety.”

Responding to the scene on Tuesday, the SWAT team was able to get close enough to the house to toss the robot inside. The robot then checked the garage and drove through the living room, kitchen and down a hallway, while police gave it commands to locate the suspect, according to Munster police Sgt. John Peirick, who operated the robot for the SWAT team.

Officers kept giving commands through the robot until they received a response, and the suspect surrendered.

The department has had the robot for about five months. The closest jurisdiction with a similar model is the Chicago Police Department, Peirick said.

Times reporter Chelsea Schneider Kirk contributed to this article.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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