Matthew Nellessen was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison by a Cook County judge who said he saw no chance of redemption for the 22-year-old Arlington Heights man who beat and stabbed his father to death.
"I thought I'd seen everything until this case," Judge Martin Agran said in sentencing Nellessen to natural life without parole, Illinois' toughest penalty. "I do not see an opportunity for redemption or rehabilitation."
"This kind of evil should not happen in Arlington Heights, Illinois," Agran added.
Nellessen became emotional several times during Wednesday's hearing but expressed no remorse for killing his father George, a 55-year-old mold maker for Rexam in Buffalo Grove.
Nellessen spoke briefly at the hearing, thanking his supporters. Among them were parents of his childhood friends and his maternal grandmother, who described him as a polite, respectful young man who became lost and eventually began abusing drugs after his mother died of cancer in 2004. Nellessen said he would never blame his mother for dying but claimed his father would not have died had she been alive.
"People in this room will always have a place in my heart, my father included," Matthew Nellessen said.
But several relatives heaped blame on him and asked Agran for the maximum sentence.
Matthew's sister, Laura Selman, described George Nellessen as her best friend, the man who filled the role of both parents after her mother died. Selman, a college student in 2011, last saw her father a month before his death.
"I was not able to see him at his own funeral due to the extent of the injuries he sustained," she wrote in a victim impact statement prosecutors read Wednesday in court. "He was not able to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day, meet my husband, celebrate my college graduation. And my future children will never know their grandfather."
She and Matthew wanted for nothing, Selman wrote.
"Despite Matthew Nellessen's constant deviant behaviors, lack of respect toward my father and continual commitment of crimes toward our family and others, my father never gave up hope that my brother would one day change for the better," she wrote.
George's younger brother Jeff Nellessen of Mount Prospect described in court how the family's happy memories of George are forever accompanied by images of his death at the hands of his son.
"Knowing you're in jail makes society a little safer. You are guilty. Now pay the price," he said to Matthew, adding that this might be the first time Matthew pays for his actions.
His comments referred to the younger Nellessen's history of arrests for forging his father's name on checks, burglary of a friend's home and leaving the scene of an accident. Authorities say Nellessen received supervision and probation for those convictions, in part through the intervention of his father.
Prosecutors say greed and anger motivated Nellessen to commit the murder.
Cook County Assistant Public Defender Daniel Naranjo said he will file a motion asking Agran to reconsider the sentence, which Naranjo said is "excessive in light of Matthew's age."
He said the sentence is especially harsh compared to the 18-year sentence for co-defendant Marlon Green, who initially also was charged with George Nellessen's murder but pleaded guilty to armed robbery and testified against Matthew Nellessen.
"We submit Marlon Green was the one with an intention to kill that day," Naranjo said.
Prosecutors acknowledged during the trial that Matthew Nellessen enlisted help from Green to rob George Nellessen of money Matthew felt was owed to him. Green testified he sought help from his friend Armon Braden, who supplied a pellet gun prosecutors say the men used during the robbery.
Braden's younger brother, Azari Braden, drove his brother and Green to the Nellessens' home the afternoon of April 12, 2011, but never stepped inside, according to testimony. Murder charges are still pending against Armon and Azari Braden.
Prosecutors say Green held a gun on George Nellessen while Matthew Nellessen and Armon Braden tied him to a chair and forced him to divulge his bank account information and sign a check made out to Matthew Nellessen in the amount of $100,000.
Green testified that Nellessen struck his still-bound father in the head four or five times with a baseball bat. When the blows failed to kill his father, Matthew Nellessen stabbed him in the neck with a kitchen knife, Green said.
Nellessen appears in court for post-sentence motions July 7.