Teen sentenced to 45 years in Halloween killing

An Aurora teen pleaded guilty Tuesday to the 2004 murder of a St. Charles youth corrections officer and minister in exchange for a 45-year prison sentence.

The plea deal means Timothy C. Echols, 17, will be nearing his 60th birthday when he's released from jail in early 2051. He must serve the full sentence, with the exception of 930 days served while awaiting trial.

"This is what happens to the young gangsters," said Kane County State's Attorney John Barsanti, who prosecuted the case. "Maybe if some of the 'shortys' could see this, they would think again about joining a gang."

Echols had just turned 14 years old when he shot and killed Duranthony Evans, 34, of Aurora, on Halloween night 2004. Prosecutors said Echols was following orders from leaders of a gang he hoped to join, and the killing was part of his initiation.

According to Barsanti, the teenager closed his eyes as he opened fire on Evans from the passenger seat of a car that had pulled alongside Evans' at Farnsworth and North avenues in Aurora Township. Evans was hit in the neck multiple times, while his passenger managed to escape unharmed.

Prosecutors said Echols was supposed to shoot a member of a rival street gang, but Evans had no such ties. Echols confessed to the shooting after police told him they had a recording of him talking about the crime to an informant, authorities said.

For Evans' relatives, Tuesday's guilty plea offered some closure after nearly four years of seeking justice. But it also reopened old wounds.

"It's like it's all new," Evans' mother, Dorothy Thomas, said. "It makes you feel like this just happened."

Evans worked as a corrections officer in a St. Charles youth prison that has since closed and was a practicing minister. In his spare time, Evans also mentored Aurora schoolchildren, particularly young boys with troubled backgrounds, relatives said.

"He saw the good in everybody," said Evans' widow, Melinda.

Echols, who has a 7th grade education, was prosecuted as an adult and faced up to 60 years in prison if convicted at trial. Twenty-six-year-old Eric Sanchez of Aurora, the driver of the vehicle Echols used in the shooting, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last year and is serving 15 years for his part in the killing.

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