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Englewood couple tortured to death a disabled man who paid them to help him, prosecutors say

A Cook County judge on Wednesday said a couple acting as a caretaker for a disabled man found dead in a South Side garage were “wicked” and “evil” in the abuse and torture alleged by prosecutors in the case.

The couple who acted as caretakers, Dominique Beck, 29, and Santino Carter, 38, along with a third man, Brian Gray, 48, were each charged with first-degree murder in the July death of the 44-year-old man they had cared for in exchange for the man’s government benefits. Beck also faces a charge of felony neglect by a caregiver causing death.

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Prosecutors said Frederick Marion Johnson’s death from multiple blunt force trauma injuries opened the door to horrid details of abuse against the man, who had numerous ailments, including schizoaffective disorder and bipolar disorder as well as a history of seizures.

During the hearing broadcast on YouTube, Cook County Circuit Judge John F. Lyke Jr. denied bail for both Carter and Gray, while ordering Beck held in lieu of $1 million bail.

Johnson’s bruised body was found inside an open residential garage in the 900 block of West 71st Street about 2:45 a.m. June 25, following an anonymous phone call, authorities said. Police later found that Johnson had been reported missing two days prior by Beck, who claimed to be his sister, Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said in court.

But following a lengthy police investigation and the arrest of all three suspects, Beck told investigators that Johnson’s death was sparked by Johnson defecating in the home and exposing himself to the couple’s children, Murphy said.

In speaking with police, Beck and Carter said Johnson had been kicked out of their home in the 6900 block of South Peoria Street two weeks prior because he defecated in the house.

An eyewitness later approached authorities and told them she arrived to find Carter punishing Johnson by making him bend over to touch his toes for several hours, Murphy said, adding that Carter struck the man with a wooden stick every time he got out of position.

The witness said that she saw Carter hit the man in the ribs with a large chain and that she saw him enter a room with a hammer and heard the victim cry out in pain.

Beck later admitted to believing Johnson exposed himself to her children, as well as to disciplining Johnson when he behaved poorly in their home. The discipline allegedly included making him sit in a corner, holding heavy books while doing squats and even drinking toilet water.

Police traced the anonymous tip to Gray, who later admitted he was paid $100 by Carter to help clean up the scene where Johnson was killed and hide the body, though he denied participating in a beating.

Gray told investigators that he convinced Carter to not shoot Johnson.

The Cook County medical examiner’s office had deferred results on Johnson’s autopsy but later ruled his death a homicide.

Judge Lyke called their actions unconscionable.

“What the state just read to me shocked the conscious to say the least,” said Lyke, who added, “And if all of this is true, it’s wickedness and evilness on a whole other level.”

All three are expected to return to court next month.

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Chicago Tribune’s Liam Ford contributed.

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