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updated: 8/15/2014 4:51 PM

55 years for 2012 Willowbrook 'street execution'

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  • Juan Cuellar

      Juan Cuellar

 
 

If Juan Cuellar lives, he will be 78 when he walks out of prison. But the 25-year-old Willowbrook man doesn't think he'll survive.

Cuellar was sentenced Friday to 55 years in prison for the 2012 shooting death of 18-year-old Joshua Holmes in a feud over a drug debt.

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Cuellar, of the 10S700 block of Lilac Lane, had requested a new trial to overturn the April 29 guilty verdict.

Judge Daniel Guerin denied that motion, handing down the sentence, which the 2007 Glenbard West graduate must serve in full. He was credited for two years already served.

"I don't think I'll survive in prison with the sentence I'm facing today," Cuellar said, addressing Guerin and pleading with Holmes' family for forgiveness. "Sept. 24 (2012) was a tragic day for Joshua, myself and both of our families. I am extremely sorrowful about Joshua passing away. It is a regrettable memory I'm going to have to live with."

Holmes' mother, Talanda Holmes, told Guerin she still sees her son in her dreams and watches out the window for him, knowing he's not coming home.

After the sentencing, Holmes said she was "satisfied."

"You know, I thought I was going to leave here today feeling one way, but I don't because Joshua is never coming back," she said. "But you can say I'm satisfied."

Cuellar, even as his sentencing approached, maintained that on Sept. 24, 2012, the day he shot Holmes, also of Willowbrook, he feared for his safety and that of his mother and younger brother.

Earlier that month, Cuellar's younger brother, Christopher Hernandez, paid Holmes $90 for marijuana, but weeks went by and Holmes never delivered.

After a Sept. 6, 2012, confrontation in which Hernandez and an armed Cuellar unsuccessfully tried to collect the money from Holmes, prosecutors said Cuellar went looking for Holmes on Sept. 24, 2012. And when he found him, he shot him.

Cuellar fired six shots at Holmes, striking him five times, after Cuellar believed Holmes was about to pull his own gun.

A forensic pathologist testified during the April trial that Holmes was shot four times from behind and once in the arm. There was no evidence of Holmes being armed.

"This was nothing more than a street execution," Assistant State's Attorney Steve Knight said Friday in court. "This defendant left Joshua Holmes laying in the street like an animal."

After the shooting, Cuellar concocted a plan with Hernandez, his ex-girlfriend, his mother and others to disassemble the handgun, shave off the serial numbers and dump the gun in the Fox River in St. Charles. Cuellar then went into hiding and was eventually found in his father's basement in Gilberts.

Cuellar's mother, Elva Hernandez, 43, also of Willowbrook, was sentenced last year to two years in prison after pleading guilty to obstructing of justice.

Cuellar's attorney, Paul DeLuca has asked Guerin to reconsider the sentence. That hearing was scheduled for Aug. 25.

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