Teen enters plea in fatal Anchorage party-bus shooting
A 19-year-old man charged with fatally shooting a young woman on an Anchorage party bus in December has pleaded not guilty in her death.
Christopher Espiritu-Simpson’s attorney entered his plea in the case Friday, after a grand jury handed down second-degree murder charges in the death of 19-year-old Juanita Lolesio.
Lolesio’s loved ones had dozens of supporters in the courtroom to hear the plea, all wearing #JuanitaStrongForever sweatshirts to show the impact of her death.
"We're not here just for Juanita," said Juanita's mother, Erica Lolesio. "We're here for all the children and all the youth. Everybody, we're here as a town and as a state gathering together to bring awareness to gun violence. Something has to change."
Police say Juanita Lolesio was shot by Simpson and a 15-year-old male in the early hours of Dec. 30, when they fired on her party buy near Oklahoma Street and Boundary Avenue. Juanita died from her injuries in mid-January.
Prosecutors have previously said her shooting was the unintended result of a “love triangle” unconnected to Lolesio. Espiritu-Simpson allegedly confessed to firing on a Stella Place apartment with the 15-year-old three days earlier.
"Juanita's case has definitely touched home for a lot of people,” Erica said. "It's sad because these are all children. I'm learning to forgive because Chris and the 15-year-old have a mom, dad and family. Forgiveness first, they are all just kids – but there has to be justice."
Erica Lolesio, along with family members and friends, are working on starting a non-profit organization called Juanita Strong Forever to bring gun violence awareness to the city of Anchorage under the slogan “Stand up, Stand strong, Take 907 back.” More about the group is available on its Facebook page.
Espiritu-Simpson’s bail of $150,000 wasn’t changed in court Friday, but his trial was tentatively set to begin June 11. A pretrial conference is now set for May 1.
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