‘Family was everything’ to slain Aurora teen

A pair of Aurora men appeared in court Sunday facing charges in connection with the fatal Nov. 7 shooting of a 19-year-old man in what police are describing as a botched robbery.

Leon D. Williams, 21, of the 2400 block of North Farnsworth Avenue, and Keyonn S. Lovelace, 18, of the 400 block of North Union Street, each face three counts of first-degree murder, as well as armed robbery charges, in the slaying of Daniel Sanchez, Aurora police said.

A statement from police identifies Williams as the triggerman in the fatal shooting, which authorities say occurred when the suspects attempted to rob Sanchez, of Aurora, at gunpoint during a prearranged drug deal.

Sanchez’s mother, Adriana Cervantes, described him Sunday as the life of the party, someone who was always dancing, smiling and trying to make others happy.

But “to him, family was everything,” she added.

Cervantes was out of town when she heard that her son had been fatally shot in an industrial area on Aurora’s southwest side. But when she returned home, she said, she was amazed at the number of people who showed up at her South Lake Street home to share stories about her son.

“The kids that Danny knew have come out of the woodwork,” Cervantes said.

Friends and loved ones started fundraisers, including a GoFundMe account, to help pay for funeral expenses. During a visitation Thursday, hundreds of friends, family, co-workers, teachers and even people who had only briefly met Sanchez waited in line at Dieterle Memorial Home for hours to pay their respects.

“It shows how the community felt about him and the kind of person he was,” said James Stallman, who taught Sanchez at Washington Middle School in Aurora. “I’m 63 years old, and in all my life, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything to compare to this as far as the outpouring of the community.”

Sanchez graduated from West Aurora High School in 2014 and had been studying business at Waubonsee Community College. He found a love of soccer at an early age, Cervantes said, and played on teams in school and through other indoor leagues.

He also worked at O’Reilly Auto Parts in Aurora. Cervantes said his co-workers scheduled shifts so each one could make an appearance at Sanchez’s memorial services.

In 2014, Sanchez was diagnosed with a rare, slow-moving form of cancer that would eventually turn into leukemia, Cervantes said.

“He never got depressed about it. He just kept on living,” she said. “He didn’t give up on anything.”

In fact, Stallman said, it was rare to ever see Sanchez without a smile.

“He was a very strong person,” he said. “Over the last few days, I’ve heard so many people talk about his smile. That’s the thing they’ll remember about him.”

According to charging documents, Sanchez was shot to death after meeting with Williams to sell marijuana. Williams, documents state, enlisted Lovelace to help rob the Aurora teen of his drugs and cash. according to authorities.

After agreeing on a meeting place for the deal, police said Lovelace drove Williams to the area of Ridgeway Avenue and Lake Street, picked up Sanchez, and then drove to the 600 block of South Elmwood.

When the vehicle stopped, police said Williams drew a handgun he had received from Lovelace and demanded Sanchez’s money and marijuana. A struggle ensued and a shot was fired, police said.

Sanchez then jumped out of the vehicle with Williams chasing him, police said. Williams fire twice more, hitting Sanchez in the head and leg, according to police.

Police responding to a reports of shots fired at 12:05 p.m. Nov. 7 found Sanchez lying on the ground. He was taken to Presence Mercy Medical Center and then airlifted to Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, where he was pronounced dead at 7:28 p.m.

According to police, detectives quickly discovered evidence linking Williams and Lovelace to the killing, including surveillance video from area businesses.

Lovelace was arrested about 2:15 a.m. Friday, and the handgun believed to be used in the killing was recovered at his home, police said. Williams was arrested at about 5 p.m. Friday, at his home, according to police.

Both men are being held at the Kane County jail. A judge on Sunday set Lovelace’s bail at $500,000, and he is due back in court Dec. 3. Williams’ bail was set at $300,000, according to jail records, and he is scheduled back in court Dec. 2.

An 18-year-old Aurora man with Williams and Lovelace during the shooting but was released without being charged, police said.

Source: http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20151115/news/151119288/