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Vernon Hills man sentenced after fatal shooting outside Gurnee Mills

A former Vernon Hills resident has been found guilty of first-degree murder and other crimes in connection with a shooting that occurred over Thanksgiving weekend 2021 in a parking lot outside the Gurnee Mills mall, which was packed with holiday shoppers at the time.

According to prosecutors, a Lake County jury found Joey Gonzalez guilty on all counts following the conclusion of his trial on Friday.

Gonzalez was convicted in the death of 26-year-old Jonathan Denicolas of Zion. Denicolas was shot in the mall parking lot on November 27, 2021.

Gonzalez and another man, Jesse Zumaya, were taken into custody months later.

According to testimony at trial, Gonzalez and the victim arranged to meet at the mall. Gonzalez testified he acted in self-defense, although prosecutors said there was no evidence Denicolas was armed.

Gonzalez faces a minimum of 30 years in prison for murder. He also faces weapons charges, including aggravated assault with a firearm. He is due back in court in August.

His co-defendant Zumaya is awaiting trial.

“The shooters will be held accountable for the death and destruction they caused,” District Attorney Eric Rinehart said Monday. “Our trial teams are delivering justice in the courtroom, and hopefully the survivors will find some comfort in these verdicts.”