Three life sentences for Hoffman Estates murders
D'Andre Howard will spend the rest of his life in prison for murdering three members of the Engelhardt family and attempting to kill a fourth during what prosecutors described as a jealousy-fueled attack five years ago at their Hoffman Estates home.
Convicted last month of fatally stabbing members of his ex-fiancee Amanda Engelhardt's family -- her younger sister Laura Engelhardt, 18; her dad, Alan, 57; and her grandmother, Marlene Gacek, 73 -- Howard received three life sentences Wednesday, without the possibility of parole. Cook County Judge Ellen Mandletort also sentenced Howard, 26, to an additional 60 years for the attempted murder of Shelly Engelhardt, who was seriously wounded in the attacks that killed her husband, daughter and mother.
"I stand here now to let you know that good has triumphed over evil once more," said a poised Shelly Engelhardt in a brief victim impact statement Wednesday.
"The wounds and pain that you inflicted on us have not weakened our family and will not define our future," she said. "We have the gifts of faith and wisdom from my mother, compassion and caring from my husband, and integrity and bravery from my daughter. How they lived and what they gave to and did for others is the legacy we will carry forth."
Shelly's son Jeff Engelhardt, who was away at college at the time of the murders, recalled how Laura, Alan and Marlene continue to inspire those who loved them.
"My dad taught me how to stand up for what's right, my sister taught me what true friendship really is, and my grandma taught me everything I need to know about life," he said.
Jeff Engelhardt urged Howard to "be a better person," adding, "Making a positive difference in your life and others' lives ... is worth more than any apology you can try to muster."
Howard appeared dispassionate during the 45-minute hearing, which was delayed a few hours after he initially refused to come to court. He made no statement and no family members spoke on his behalf.
Cook County Assistant Public Defender Deana Binstock, however, made an impassioned appeal for mercy for her client, who she argued was legally insane at the time of the murders.
A victim of physical and sexual abuse and neglect, Howard was removed from his family at age 6, the same year he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
"D'Andre never had a chance," said Binstock, who described Howard's life as "one continuous roller coaster" and blamed the child welfare system for failing to provide him with necessary mental health treatment.
"Where were the people of Illinois all the years he was in the system?" she said. "The system failed him. And it failed the Engelhardts."
Prosecutors say Howard erroneously believed Amanda was cheating on him. He told Amanda that because she ruined their family -- which included a then-infant daughter -- he was going to torture and murder hers, prosecutors said.
In announcing her sentence, Mandletort pointed out that many people grow up in the child welfare system, endure abuse or suffer from mental illness without hurting anyone.
"There was someone who gave the defendant a chance," she said. "That was the Engelhardt family. ... His response was to murder three members of that family."
Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Maria McCarthy described the brutality of the murders, which she said stunned veteran attorneys and for which Howard showed no remorse.
"This case is so shocking and so horrific, even we find it hard to believe someone could do something like this," McCarthy said. "To think about the injured and the dead, lying on the floor in the den and kitchen, the ones who were uninjured and were forced to sit amid the carnage."
After the hearing, Howard's mother, Constance Howard, handed reporters a written statement.
"I would like to apologize to the family for the pain that my son caused," it read. "The family will remain in my prayers. ... May God continue to wrap his arms around you all."