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updated: 9/4/2013 4:17 PM

Judge: Past convictions allowed in Burger King murder sentencing

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  • POOL/Sun-Times Media, Thomas Delany Jr. James Ealy, of Lake Villa, during his murder trial in May.

    POOL/Sun-Times Media, Thomas Delany Jr. James Ealy, of Lake Villa, during his murder trial in May.


Lake County prosecutors will be able to use a Lake Villa man's past failed murder conviction when he is sentenced for killing his boss at a Lindenhurst Burger King, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Lake County Judge Daniel Shanes said prosecutors may introduce any past convictions against James Ealy, 49, during the Oct. 9 sentencing hearing, including his conviction in a quadruple homicide in Chicago in 1982 that was later overturned by a state appellate court.

Chief Deputy State's Attorney Jeff Pavletic said a judge will use positive and negative aspects of a person's life during a hearing to determine a final sentence.

"We believe the details of the Chicago quadruple homicide speak to the need for a lengthy prison term," Pavletic said.

Ealy faces life in prison after he was found guilty May 24 of killing Mary Hutchison during a robbery at the now-closed Burger King on Grand Avenue in November 2006.

Prosecutors proved during the trial that Ealy drove to the restaurant at 4:23 a.m. and strangled the 45-year-old Hutchison using the bow tie from her uniform.

After the murder, Ealy stole cash and coins from the restaurant safe, authorities said. Police found the money in Ealy's apartment, and that phone calls had been made from Ealy's cellphone to the Burger King minutes before the murder took place.

Ealy has remained in Lake County jail without bail since his arrest in 2006.

He was convicted of killing four people in a Chicago apartment in 1982. However, Shanes said the previous murders could not be introduced during Ealy's trial because it would sway the jury.

Ealy was released form prison following that conviction when a state appeals court ruled police lacked probable cause to arrest him.

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