A Lake County judge sentenced a Zion man to 30 years in prison Tuesday for what he called the "horrific" crime of suffocating a 5-month-old child and throwing the body in a garbage container.
In a brief statement during his sentencing hearing, Demetries Thorpe, 27, apologized for placing his hand over Joshua Summeries' mouth, saying he will struggle to live with the guilt of killing his girlfriend's baby and trying to hide the evidence.
The contents of the garbage container was dumped in a landfill and the infant's body was never recovered.
"I am truly remorseful that this happened," Thorpe said. "I have lost everything."
The baby's mother, Kisha Summeries, cried in the front row of the courtroom with her face buried in her hands while Thorpe spoke.
Thorpe was facing 35 years in prison after he pleaded guilty in July to one count of murder for killing the infant in the apartment he shared with his girlfriend in the 23000 block of Galilee Avenue.
Prosecutors dropped 13 other counts of murder and capped the maximum prison sentence at 35 years in exchange for the guilty plea. Had Thorpe been found guilty on all counts at trial, he could have been sentenced to life in prison.
Lake County State's Attorney Mike Nerheim said Thorpe suffocated the baby to stop him from crying Aug. 21, 2013, then tried to cover up the crime by placing the body in a backpack and dropping it out of a window into an alley.
After telling people he was going outside to smoke a cigarette, Thorpe dumped the backpack into a nearby garbage can, then went back inside, Nerheim said.
Thorpe told Kisha Summeries the baby was kidnapped, Nerheim said. As police were called, Thorpe went back outside, retrieved the backpack, and placed it in a second garbage container, he said.
After a garbage truck unloaded the container and left, Thorpe went back to the container to make sure the backpack was gone, Nerheim said.
Thorpe confessed to the killing during questioning by police, Nerheim said, and volunteers searched for two days in the landfill at 7021 Green Bay Road in Zion. "Because of his actions, baby Joshua will not have a chance at life," Nerheim said in court. "Because of his actions, this innocent, defenseless child will forever rest in peace."
Defense attorney Jeff Facklam said Thorpe was mentally and sexually abused as a child, and was not taking prescribed medication to help his bi-polar illness.
"This is something he will forever regret," Facklam said. He asked Judge Daniel Shanes to sentence Thorpe to 20 years in prison.
But Shanes said "children are the most vulnerable members of society," and the crying child was looking to be comforted by an adult.
"How horrible to think that his tombstone is literally a bunch of garbage," Shanes said. "Joshua looked to you for care and comfort ... instead what he got at your hands was pain and death."
Thorpe is required to serve the full 30-year prison sentence before being eligible for parole, Shanes said. He must also spend 3 years on parole after his release, and he is required to register as an offender on state lists involving violent crimes against children.
"For your actions that day, I am sentencing you to prison for longer than you have walked free on Earth," Shanes added.