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updated: 4/23/2014 6:43 PM

Testimony begins in case of 2012 Willowbrook slaying

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  • Juan Cuellar

    Juan Cuellar


A Willowbrook man faces life in prison if convicted of murdering an 18-year-old over a $90 drug debt

The trial began Wednesday for Juan Cuellar, 24, of the 10S700 block of Lilac Lane. Cuellar is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the Sept. 24, 2012, shooting death of Downers Grove Township resident Joshua Holmes at the intersection of Honeysuckle Rose and Hyacinth lanes near Willowbrook.

During Wednesday's opening statements, Assistant State's Attorney Enza LaMonica said Cuellar's younger brother, Christopher Hernandez, had paid Holmes $90 for marijuana, but weeks went by and Holmes never delivered.

After a Sept. 6 confrontation in which Hernandez and Cuellar unsuccessfully attempted to collect the money from Holmes, she said, Cuellar went looking for Holmes on Sept. 24.

Cuellar "circled the neighborhood" looking for Holmes. When he found him, LaMonica said, Cuellar shot him five times.

"(Cuellar) pulled up, pulled out his 40-caliber Glock handgun, pointed it at (Holmes) and pulled the trigger at least five times," LaMonica said. "He gunned down Joshua Holmes for a lousy 90 bucks. As (Holmes) lay drowning in his own blood, (Cuellar) got out, stood over (Holmes) and asked 'Have you had enough?'"

Following the shooting, LaMonica said, Cuellar, along with his girlfriend and mother, concocted a plan to disassemble the handgun, shave off any serial numbers and dump the gun in the Fox River in St. Charles. Cuellar then went into hiding, she said, and was eventually found in a basement in Gilberts.

Cuellar's mother, Elva Hernandez, 43, also of Willowbrook, was sentenced in April to two years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of obstruction of justice.

Cuellar's attorney, Paul De Luca, doesn't deny Cuellar shot Holmes and pointed to the laws of the street in a "rough and tough neighborhood" where Cuellar was protecting himself.

"In this culture, people don't go to the police. They choose to solve things their own way," De Luca said.

When Cuellar went to the area of the shooting and found Holmes, De Luca said, it was Holmes who approached Cuellar's car and "made a threatening motion," causing Cuellar to shoot.

"Joshua wasn't going to let this go," De Luca said. "He played chicken with his own life when he approached the car."

The first paramedic and police officer on the scene each testified Wednesday that they did not see a weapon with Holmes when they arrived to find him lifeless and bleeding in the street. Two of Holmes' friends also testified that Holmes did not own a gun.

Testimony resumes at 9 a.m. Thursday in courtroom 4004. De Luca said he expects to begin the defense's case Thursday afternoon.

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