46-year sentence for teen who pleaded guilty to killing two outside Pilsen high school


Destiny Moreno described in court how she pleaded with the lifeless figure of her 14-year-old brother, telling him she needed him after he was shot to death in a broad-daylight attack just outside a Southwest Side high school.

“Nathan please wake up,” Moreno said Monday in a courtroom at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, recounting her words in that desperate moment.

Family members of two boys gunned down on school grounds at Benito Juarez Community Academy in 2022 delivered emotional testimony just before a judge sentenced the 18-year-old man charged in the deaths to 46 years in prison.

Christian Acevedo pleaded guilty to two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder in the Dec. 16, 2022 slayings of Brandon Perez, 15, and Nathan Billegas, 14. Acevedo, who was previously expelled from Benito Juarez, killed the boys and injured two other students as groups of local students gathered around 2:30 p.m. shortly after dismissal.

“To say that this is a tragedy doesn’t even begin to describe the pain that we’re seeing here in the courtroom,” said Judge Mary Margaret Brosnahan as she accepted the plea agreement.

Acevedo spoke briefly during the proceeding with a quiet, nearly inaudible apology. His attorney, Nicholas Giordano, noted that Acevedo was 16 at the time of the shooting and said it was a “tragedy all around.”

“I don’t know what the solutions are,” he said, referring to cycles of gun violence.

Assistant State’s Attorney Bonnie Greenstein said witnesses identified Acevedo, who was also captured on surveillance video fleeing the shooting.

Shortly before the shooting, a girl heard someone refer to a group that included Perez and Billegas as “La Raza” and went to them to warn them that someone planned to start trouble, Greenstein said. Acevedo approached and asked if they identified with the street gang, she said. In response, Perez asked why he wanted to know.

Acevedo turned as if to walk away, then turned around and fired at the group, Greenstein said.

People gather for a memorial at Benito Juarez Community Academy high school in Chicago on Dec. 19, 2022, after teens were shot there, two of them fatally. (Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune)
People gather for a memorial at Benito Juarez Community Academy high school in Chicago on Dec. 19, 2022, after teens were shot there, two of them fatally. (Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune)

Perez was a student at Juarez, while Billegas attended Chicago Bulls College Prep, police have previously said.

Moreno described her brother as funny and outgoing, but serious when he needed to be. The two dreamed big dreams, she said, often talking about the mansions they would one day live in when they accomplished their goals.

“He was one of those people who left a mark,” she said. “He could make friends with the class nerd who everyone made fun of or the class clown who everyone praised.”

She turned her body slightly to directly address Acevedo, telling him the family would like to forgive him for their own peace of mind, but that they can’t in light of his remorselessness.

“You didn’t even know Nathan,” she said. “We know that you’re not sorry.”

Nathan’s mother Inez Billegas also spoke, telling Acevedo that she can no longer hug her son, or tell him she loves him because of his actions.

“There are no words, no amount of time, no amount of punishment that can replace my Nathan,” she said. “Was it worth it?”

Greenstein read a statement from the mother of Brandon Perez, whose family was also in court.

“We didn’t have time for a proper goodbye,” the statement said. “I love you and miss you every day and will for the rest of my life.”

Acevedo was arrested in February of 2023 after police executed a search warrant at his home and found four guns in his bedroom, three of which were at the foot of his bed in a backpack and another one wrapped in a sweatshirt on the bed, prosecutors have said. All were fully loaded with extended magazines, they said, saying three also had switches to make them fully automatic.

He had been expelled from the school the year before for behavior, academic and attendance issues, authorities said.



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