Sentence coming for gunman in 2014 slaying of Bensenville shop clerk
Stephan Russell could be 70 years old when he takes his next breath as a free man.
It's also possible Russell, 25, never again will see the sun outside prison.
He'll learn his fate Wednesday when DuPage County Judge Daniel Guerin, who presided over his 2016 murder trial, imposes a sentence ranging from 49 years to life in prison.
Guerin on Monday continued Russell's sentencing hearing until midweek, saying he needs more time to review evidence and letters written in support of Russell.
Russell was convicted in November 2016 of first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery in the Jan. 19, 2014, slaying of 36-year-old Bensenville tobacco shop clerk Hussein Saghir.
A jury deliberated for about four hours on Nov. 18, 2016, before finding that Russell fired the single shot that pierced Saghir's heart and both lungs, killing him just moments before he and his wife, Hanan Faraj, would be celebrating her birthday.
Saghir and his brother were closing Sam's Tobacco and Food Mart at 235 W. Irving Park Road around 5:45 p.m. that January night when they were confronted by Russell and Kenneth Bardlett.
Bardlett grabbed Saghir's brother, Ahmad, and attempted to drag him back into the store while Russell kept a handgun pointed at Hussein Saghir.
When Saghir refused to re-enter the store, apparently to protect his 3-year-old nephew inside, Russell fired one shot from a black revolver over Saghir's head, the bullet lodging in the door frame.
Prosecutors say Saghir continued to struggle outside the store when Russell fired the fatal shot just below Hussein's right armpit.
The pair and a third man, Tremayne Davis, who remained in the minivan during the robbery, immediately panicked and fled to Chicago.
In her victim impact statement, read in court by Assistant State's Attorney Kristin Johnston, Faraj said she has not celebrated her birthday since her husband's murder.
"I refuse to acknowledge that day as the day I was born because I consider it as the day a part of me died," Faraj wrote. "The day of his murder is like a dream, a blur, a terrible memory that replays itself upon waking up every day and going to sleep."
She asked that Russell receive a life sentence, the longest possible, "so he has enough time to sit and think about the suffering he has caused with his greed."
"Hussein will rest in peace, but Stephan, you will live a life of guilt waking up every day knowing you took an innocent life and ruined mine," she wrote. "Hussein was a husband. He was a brother, an uncle, a friend and a son to parents who received his body in a box for burial because of your cruel acts of violence."
Bardlett, 24, of Bellwood pleaded guilty, on June 12, to first-degree murder and was sentenced to 22 years in prison.
Davis was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2016 after pleading guilty to attempted armed robbery in the case. He already is out of prison and is expected to be discharged from parole on Feb. 19, 2021.