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Denver street artist paints mural in memory of murdered friend

Police said Andy Billinger was shot to death last year over a gaming console. Denver street artist Chris Haven began work Wednesday on a mural to honor his friend.

DENVER — Perched on a step stool in an alley right behind Larimer Street in RiNo, longtime Denver street artist Chris Haven was helping keep the memory of a childhood friend alive.

"I mean, he was an awesome guy. Really nice, always smiling and funny," Haven said.

On June 29, 2021, 38-year-old Andy Billinger was shot to death in broad daylight in the parking lot of a McDonald's in Aurora. Police said Billinger was killed while trying to sell a gaming console to a man he met online.

"I think it's horrible. It was just a senseless act of violence and no reason for it. It's really tragic," Haven said.

MJ Holton, Billinger's live-in girlfriend, said soon after he was killed, she began to think of the best way to honor Billinger's life. A few months ago, she found it. Actually, she found Chris Haven, who had known Billinger since their teenage years in Westminster.

"His work is second to none. It's just beautiful," Holton said.

After much planning, and a little fundraising, Haven began work Wednesday morning on a mural of Billinger. It's based on one of Holton's favorite pictures.

"The light in his eyes, his big smile, the goofy grin is so classic Andy," Holton said.

"I hope through murals like this we can help the memory of him live longer," Haven said.

When it's finished, the mural is scheduled to be in place for at least a year. Holton called it a perfect tribute to Billinger, a young man who loved life and art whose life ended way too soon.

"This is a place that people can go and check it out and remember how he lived his life and who he was," Holton said.

The man accused of killing Billinger is charged with first-degree murder. His trial is scheduled to start at the end of October.

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