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updated: 2/7/2014 10:54 PM

Mundelein man guilty of murder

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  • Jose Garcia

    Jose Garcia


A 19-year-old Mundelein gang member was found guilty late Friday of killing a Zion teen because of the way he wore his hat.

Jose Garcia now faces up to life in prison after a jury found him guilty on three counts of first-degree murder for killing 18-year-old Gabriel Gonzalez in the parking lot of the One Stop Food and Liquor store in Round Lake Beach on March 10.

The jury took about six hours to turn in the guilty verdict against Garcia. His sentencing will be scheduled by Judge Daniel Shanes after additional court proceedings are completed March 18.

Defense attorney James Schwarzbach attempted during the weeklong trial to pin the killing on co-defendant Jose Rebollar-Vergara, 26, of Round Lake Park. Garcia even took the stand in his own defense Friday, telling jurors Rebollar-Vergara fired the shot that killed Gonzalez.

"I absolutely did not shoot Gabriel Gonzalez," Garcia testified.

But Assistant State's Attorney Robert Money said during closing arguments later Friday that Garcia acted as the enforcer for Rebollar-Vergara and a third gang member when the three went to buy alcohol at the minimart on the 1000 block of Fairfield Road just before the shooting at 12:40 a.m.

While waiting in line at the minimart, Money said, Garcia wrongly assumed Gonzalez was a rival gang member who disrespected Rebollar-Vergara and his gang.

The confrontation continued into the parking lot before Garcia pulled a 22-caliber handgun out of his pocket and shot Gonzalez, Money said.

"Unfortunately, Gabriel was in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said. "The only thing Gabriel did wrong was wear a hat the wrong way."

Schwarzbach countered that prosecutors presented "insufficient evidence" during the trial and did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Garcia was the triggerman.

"The state has the burden of proving that Jose (Garcia) shot Gabriel Gonzalez," he told the jury. "The best evidence in the trial shows Jose Rebollar fired the shot that killed Gabriel Gonzalez."

Schwarzbach also said video surveillance that captured the murder was too unclear to determine who fired the shots.

However, gunshot residue was found on Garcia's sweatshirt and on a glove he wore the night of the shooting, prosecutors said.

Assistant State's Attorney Reginald Mathews argued during cross examination of Garcia that the Mundelein man was heavily embedded in a gang and lied to police 37 times during 2 hours of police interrogation over two days.

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