Not one. Not two. But three witnesses identified Luis Villavicencio-Serna as the man who fatally shot an Addison Trail High School senior in May 2009.
On Wednesday, prosecutors implored a DuPage County jury to remember what those witnesses said before they changed their stories.
"Don't reward this defendant for scaring them into taking it back on the stand," Assistant State's Attorney Mary Cronin said in closing arguments.
Jurors deliberated Villavicencio-Serna's fate about eight hours following a weeklong trial in which the state's key witnesses recanted what they told investigators. Judge Daniel Guerin sent them home shortly after 9 p.m. They resume Thursday morning.
Assistant Public Defender Brian Jacobs told jurors the case was "not a murder mystery," and they should not convict on a hunch.
"You're not here to guess who did this," he said. "It's not a guessing game."
Villavicencio-Serna, 21, is accused of murdering 18-year-old Armando Huerta Jr. in a May 16, 2009, drive-by shooting. Huerta was hit twice from behind about 3:30 a.m. outside his home on the 300 block of Dale Drive in Addison.
Within 48 hours of the slaying, police recorded interviews with three witnesses who claimed they were in a car with the defendant and saw him fire at Huerta. But at trial all three witnesses recanted, saying they either were fed details by police or made them up as they went along.
"They all pointed at him less than 48 hours later, having not spoken to him, and they all had the same story," Prosecutor Romas Mockaitis said. "Here from the witness stand, having to look at the defendant … that's tough."
Prosecutors allege Villavicencio-Serna shot Huerta because the teen had been calling the defendant's girlfriend, then a 16-year-old runaway who lived in the same apartment building as the victim and had briefly dated him.
The former Chicago man has been in the county jail on a $5 million cash bond since three days after the killing. Authorities have said he is an illegal immigrant with street-gang ties.