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updated: 8/25/2014 11:45 AM

55-year sentence to stand in Willowbrook murder

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  • Juan Cuellar

    Juan Cuellar


A DuPage County judge Monday refused to reconsider the 55-year sentence he handed down earlier this month to a Willowbrook man found guilty of murder.

Juan Cuellar, 25, will be 78 when he completes his sentence for the 2012 shooting death of 18-year-old Joshua Holmes.

His attorney, Paul DeLuca, petitioned Judge Daniel Guerin to consider sentencing Cuellar to the minimum allowed sentence of 45 years. He said the 55-year sentence is disproportionate to Cuellar's background and the circumstances of the case.

Cuellar, of the 10S700 block of Lilac Lane, maintained he feared for his life and the safety of his mother and younger brother when he shot Holmes on Sept. 24, 2012.

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.

Prosecutors originally sought a stiffer sentence but argued Monday for the 55-year term to remain in place.

"I believe 55 years is a more than fair sentence, especially when he could have been sentenced to natural life," Assistant State's Attorney Steve Knight said in court Monday. "When you look at the fact that he fired five bullets into the victim, that works out to only 11 years per bullet."

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.

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