For four years, Janet Scalzo lived with the fear her son's killer would escape responsibility and return to a life of crime.
On Tuesday, the Wheaton mother could finally put that notion to rest after Michael Delaney was sentenced to 55 years in prison.
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"I'm thrilled," Scalzo said. "My biggest fear was that he was going to somehow snake out of this and do it again."
DuPage County Judge Daniel Guerin imposed the term on Delaney, who was convicted in February of fatally stabbing neighbor Micheal Scalzo with a steak knife during a June 2009 confrontation in Wheaton.
The judge noted Delaney, 49, had been arrested on 27 prior occasions.
"His violence has been repetitive, it's been escalating, and now it's deadly," Guerin said, adding he had "little, if any, confidence that the defendant can be rehabilitated."
Delaney stabbed Scalzo six times "for no reason at all -- simply because he was dumped by his girlfriend," said Assistant State's Attorney Tim Diamond, who argued for a life sentence.
The killing happened after Scalzo offered shelter to Delaney's ex-girlfriend following the breakup.
Authorities said the defendant repeatedly threatened Scalzo before the victim approached him in a parking lot outside their neighboring apartment buildings on Crescent Street and tried to diffuse the situation. That's when prosecutors say Delaney punched Scalzo, pulled his shirt over his head and repeatedly stabbed him, including twice in the back.
"(Scalzo) offered safe harbor to a girl he barely knew, and it cost him his life," Diamond said.
But Delaney, an Army veteran who at trial testified he acted in self-defense, insisted Tuesday he had no intent to kill.
"This was truly a mistake I didn't mean to happen," Delaney said, nearly shouting as he accused Wheaton police of "disturb(ing) the crime scene" and Scalzo of beating him relentlessly.
Assistant Public Defender Brian Jacobs sought leniency, arguing Delaney has "obvious mental health problems" and a history of drug and alcohol abuse.
"That's why this event took place," he said.
Janet Scalzo described her 40-year-old son, whose nickname was "Motorcycle Mike," as a "genuine, kindhearted person" who was well-loved in his neighborhood and known for helping others. Shortly before his death, she said, he talked of starting a charity for orphaned children after an infant was found abandoned near his home.
"He had a good heart," she said.
She said the killing left her with a "hurt so deep it is difficult to understand, let alone explain."
"For me, the injustice is he (Delaney) can talk to his family. He can see them," she told the court in a victim statement. "My son is in an urn on my credenza with a picture beside him."
Scalzo praised Wheaton police and the state's attorney's office for ultimately bringing Delaney to justice.
"They held my hand the very first day and they never let go," she said.