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updated: 10/17/2013 1:56 PM

Judge denies motion to reconsider life sentence for Lindenhurst Burger King murder

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  • James Ealy, 49, of Lake Villa, is sentenced to life in prison without parole earlier this month.

    James Ealy, 49, of Lake Villa, is sentenced to life in prison without parole earlier this month.
    Pool/Kenosha News, Thomas Delany Jr.


Lake County Judge Daniel Shanes denied a request Thursday to reconsider the life sentence imposed against a Lake Villa man convicted of killing his former boss at a Lindenhurst Burger King.

Shanes said he was "satisfied the appropriate term of natural life in prison" was correct for James Ealy, 49, in the Nov. 27. 2006 murder of 45-year-old Mary Hutchison of Trevor, Wis.

"There are no winners in a case like this, only justice," said Jeff Pavletic, chief deputy of the Lake County State's Attorney's Office. "But, I am happy there is closure for the family. They lost a cherished member of their family, and it's been more than six long years for them to get the closure they deserve."

Defense attorney Keith Grant did not comment after Shanes' ruling. However, he said in court that Ealy is positioned to appeal the guilty verdict and the sentence.

Ealy was not present during the motion. He was transferred to the Illinois Department of Corrections following his initial sentencing hearing Oct. 9.

Grant argued in court briefly Thursday that life sentences are reserved for the most brutal of crimes in Illinois, and that Shanes should issue such a sentence for those particular cases only.

In response, Shanes said murder is "the most heinous crime in Illinois."

"The defendant in this case is convicted of a cold and intrusive murder for the simple motive of robbery," he explained. "For $1,700, he decided the victim's life was not wanted."

Prosecutors proved during the trial that Ealy drove to the now-closed Burger King on Grand Avenue in Lindenhurst at 4:23 a.m. and strangled 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 discovered calls had been made from Ealy's cellphone to the Burger King minutes before the murder took place.

During the sentencing, prosecutors introduced evidence that showed Ealy killed four people during a Chicago homicide in 1982. He was found guilty and sentenced to prison for those murders, but was released after a state appeals court ruled police lacked probable cause to arrest him for the crime.

Shanes banned prosecutors from introducing the quadruple murder during Ealy's trial in May, but allowed that information during sentencing because judges are allowed to use positive and negative aspects of a person's life to determine a final sentence.

During the sentencing hearing, Ealy said he was "railroaded" throughout the process, and that he did not commit the murder.

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