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updated: 4/25/2014 11:28 AM

Ex-girlfriend testifies she helped lose weapon in Willowbrook murder

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  • Juan Cuellar

    Juan Cuellar


Prosecutors wrapped up their case Thursday in the first-degree murder trial of Juan Cuellar, with Cuellar's ex-girlfriend testifying she helped get rid of the murder weapon and testimony from DuPage County's former top forensic pathologist.

Kara Collins, 22, testified she received a phone call from a "remorseful" Cuellar saying he needed to talk to her, just 15 minutes after he shot and killed 18-year-old Downers Grove Township resident Joshua Holmes.

Cuellar, 24, of the 10S700 block of Lilac Lane, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the Sept. 24, 2012, shooting death of Holmes at the intersection of Honeysuckle Rose and Hyacinth lanes near Willowbrook.

Cuellar has admitted to the shooting, but his attorneys maintain Cuellar fired the six shots only after Holmes made a threatening motion by putting his hands near his belt, insinuating he had a gun.

Former DuPage County Chief Forensic Pathologist Jeff Harkey, however, dismissed that theory, testifying Holmes died as a result of "multiple gunshot wounds to the back, buttocks and arm."

"It is my opinion, based on the trajectory of the wounds, that (Holmes) was shot from behind while falling or leaning forward."

Cuellar and Holmes had been feuding throughout September 2012 over an alleged $90 drug debt between Holmes and Cuellar's younger brother.

Collins testified Cuellar told her details of the shooting before she, Cuellar's mother Elva Hernandez, and Cuellar concocted a plan to ditch the 40-caliber Glock pistol in the St. Charles portion of the Fox River.

"(Cuellar) told me he yelled at (Holmes), 'Yo! What's up?' and (Holmes) held his ground with his hands on his belt," Collins said. "(Cuellar) told me he unloaded a clip into (Holmes)."

After briefly meeting at Cuellar's aunt's house in Bensenville on the night of the murder, Collins said, the group went to her mother's Glen Ellyn home where Cuellar and her mother's boyfriend attempted to remove the serial numbers from the gun.

Collins said Hernandez told the group to ditch the gun in the Fox River and that Cuellar should go to Mexico.

Collins testified she drove Cuellar and Hernandez to St. Charles a short time later, helped Cuellar attach a 5-pound weight to the Glock pistol case with duct tape, and watched him toss it into the river.

Several minutes later, she said, she drove to Glen Ellyn's Panfish Park where Cuellar dumped a box of bullets into the storm sewer.

Collins said a few days later she took investigators to the sewer in the park where the bullets were recovered.

Collins, also the mother of Cuellar's 3-year-old son, was granted immunity for her testimony. Hernandez, 43, also of Willowbrook, pleaded guilty last April to obstruction of justice and was sentenced to two years in prison. Already released from prison, it is likely she will testify Friday in defense of Cuellar.

Cuellar's defense team will begin presenting their case to the jury at 9 a.m. Friday in courtroom 4004.

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