Updated 2:15 p.m.
The Chicago gunman who killed Hadiya Pendleton in 2013 was sentenced to 84 years in prison Monday.
Micheail Ward was facing 51 years to life behind bars for the shooting death of the 15-year-old honors student, a killing that drew national attention to Chicago’s gun violence.
At a dramatic sentencing hearing at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, members of Hadiya’s family read victim-impact statements describing their loss.
“The idea that I have to write a statement like this because she was murdered … is unfathomable,” said the girl’s mother, Cleopatra Cowley. “Never in my existence did I think that my baby girl that gave meaning to my life, never in a million years did I think someone would cause her harm.”
Cowley said her daughter wanted to travel overseas, and they were planning to get her a passport the week she was shot. “Instead I had to plan for her funeral,” the mother said.
She asked for the maximum penalty for Ward, and said “every breath he gets to take is one breath more than my 15-year-old daughter was allowed to breath.”
Ward angrily professed his innocence during the hearing, saying, “Why am I the only person sitting here being found guilty for something I know for a fact I didn’t do?”
“I didn’t like anything about this case,” he said. “I didn’t like that y’all found me guilty for something you said I did.”
Ward’s mother, April Ward, also made emotional comments at the hearing.
“It’s hard. I can’t touch him. I can’t hold him. I can’t make his problems go away,” she said.
“If you give him another chance he can be rehabilitated,” the mother said, choking up.
But Cook County Judge Nicholas Ford dismissed the comments by Ward and her son. “I am cognizant of the fact that this is a serious punishment,” the judge said. “But I am also cognizant of the fact that the defendant’s actions that day were some of the most onerous that can be imagined.”
Hadiya and a group of friends from King College Prep High School were gathered at a park after classes when Ward allegedly shot into the crowd, killing Hadiya. She was caught in the crossfire of a gang feud.
Jurors convicted the 24-year-old Ward of murder and aggravated battery in August. Co-defendant Kenneth Williams was convicted of being the getaway driver.
Hadiya, a majorette with her high school band, had performed at then-President Barack Obama’s second inauguration about a week before she was killed. Her slaying sent shock waves through Chicago.
Hadiya was killed on Jan. 29, 2013 at a park about a mile from the Obamas’ Chicago home. Obama spoke of her death during his 2013 State of the Union address, and then-first lady Michelle Obama attended the girl’s funeral.