Three charged in murder, carjacking spree that could bring federal death penalty

Federal prosecutors have charged three Chicago residents in a 2020 carjacking and murder spree that terrorized victims over the course of a week from the Northwest Side to the suburbs of Skokie and Morton Grove.

A superseding indictment made public this week charged Edson Resendez, 22, Maverick Cela, 22, and Prezila Apreza, 23, with conspiring to commit carjackings in the city and suburbs as well as committing one murder during an attempted carjacking and a second murder using a carjacked vehicle.

The indictment includes special findings that, if proven to a jury, could bring the death penalty, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. A decision on whether to seek the death penalty is typically made as a case gets closer to trial.

Arraignments on the superseding charges have not yet been scheduled.

Resendez and Cela are both reputed members of the Drake/Ainslie faction of the Spanish Gangster Disciples headquartered in the Albany Park neighborhood, according to court records. They were already facing federal carjacking charges filed in 2022 related to some of the same incidents.

Cela and Apreza also have pending murder charges in Cook County involving a third slaying from that same week, court records show.

The superseding indictment filed in U.S. District Court, meanwhile, brings new allegations that the trio conspired to murder 29-year-old Nabil Mahouar during an attempted carjacking in Chicago’s Dunning neighborhood on Sept. 21, 2020, and later used a car taken in different carjacking to fatally shoot a 25-year-old man a few miles away.

Mahouar, 29, was driving for Uber and had just parked outside his sister’s house near Belmont and Nagle avenues when two gunmen jumped out of a white vehicle and demanded his 2014 Volkswagen before opening fire, striking him multiple times, according to court records. His sister looked out the window in time to see the gunmen get back in the van and speed off, but could did not get a good look at their faces.

Mahouar immigrated to Chicago from Morocco and was making ends meet by driving for Uber, his former girlfriend, Marisol Nadolski, told the Tribune on Monday.

Nadolski said Mahouar was a calm and quiet person who was training to become a truck driver so he could make more money to help out his family. He also aspired to be a computer programmer, she said.

In the days after learning of Mahouar’s killing, Nadolski said she would dream about him. “I would look up and hear his voice in the air. I could hear the wind of Chicago. And he just said, ‘Thank you,'” she said.

As time passed, the dreams stopped. And though Nadolski had heard at least some of the shooters might be in custody for other alleged crimes, no one had been charged with Mahouar’s killing.

“I honestly thought (the police) had forgotten about this case,” she said when the Tribune notified her of the new charges.

The federal indictment alleged the crime spree began with the carjacking of a Chevrolet Sonic in Morton Grove on Sept. 11, 2020, part of a pattern of violence where the defendants “sought to obtain motor vehicles for the purpose of committing other crimes, including murders, attempted murders, additional carjackings, and obtaining property from the carjacking victims including credit and debit cards.”

After taking the Sonic, the trio drove to a Burger King and used the victim’s credit card to buy food, according to the charges. Two days later, after putting a license plate from another stolen vehicle on the Sonic, Resendez and Cela, as well as other uncharged individuals, drove back to Skokie and carjacked a Lexus GS350 from a different victim, according to the charges.

In ordering Resendez held without bond on charges from that case, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Gilbert said surveillance video from the Lexus carjacking “shows a particularly chilling interaction” between Resendez and the victim, in which he “pulls up to the victim’s home in a stolen car driven by his co-defendant, follows the victim across her front lawn, corners her, points a gun at her stomach, and takes her car keys at gunpoint.”

After that carjacking, Cela abandoned the Sonic in the 6200 block of North Lincoln Avenue and set it on fire, according to the charges.

The crime spree allegedly continued on Sept. 16, when Resendez, Cela and Apreza committed two more carjackings in Skokie and used victims’ credit cards to buy gas and food, according to the indictment.

According to the Cook County charges brought against Cela and Apreza, that same day, 20-year-old Adam Lique was standing on a corner at Lawrence and Monticello avenues when attackers in a silver SUV drove up and opened fire, striking Lique multiple times.

Assistant State’s Attorney Kevin DeBoni said during a bond hearing in that case that Apreza was driving her silver Chevrolet Trailblazer at the time of the shooting and that Cela sat in the back passenger seat. Another unidentified person was in the front passenger seat.

Apreza later parked the Trailblazer in an alley, and they all got into another vehicle, DeBoni said. Apreza later returned to get the Trailblazer. The Skokie Police Department found her Trailblazer that evening and processed it in relation to an unlawful use of a credit card case that happened earlier in the day.

While Lique’s shooting was not included in the federal charges, the indictment alleged that the crime spree continued five days later with yet another carjacking in Skokie. During that robbery, Cela, Resendez and Apreza “discharged three firearms” at the victim, though they apparently did not hit them.

After that incident, the three drove the victim’s stolen Nissan Altima back to Chicago, where they shot and killed Mahouar, the indictment alleged.

A short time later, they pulled up to a Toyota in the 3400 block of West Carmen Avenue and opened fire, the indictment stated. The driver, 25-year-old Eduardo Triano, of Chicago, was struck and killed, while a 24-year-old man riding with him was left wounded.

The last incident alleged in the indictment occurred later on Sept. 21, when the trio allegedly carjacked a person at gunpoint in west suburban Berwyn. That vehicle was later found abandoned at the intersection of Altgeld Street and Keeler Avenue in Chicago.