Lombard woman sentenced to 26 years for mother's murder
Even at her lowest of lows, Stephanie DeFalco said she never imagined she was capable of taking a life, much less her mother's.
But Friday afternoon, DuPage County Judge Jeffrey MacKay sentenced DeFalco, 29, of the 100 block of Grace Street in Lombard, to 26 years in prison for the strangulation of her mom, Judith DeFalco.
Prosecutors agreed in April to cap their sentencing recommendation at 30 years when DeFalco entered a blind plea of guilty to one count of first-degree murder.
"After taking responsibility for the murder of her mother Judith, Stephanie DeFalco now finds herself facing the next 26 years of her life behind bars," DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin said. "This was a horrible case that only serves as a reminder that domestic violence can take many forms. Arguments can become heated and unfortunately, turn physical and even deadly, as we saw in this case."
One day before the March 20, 2018, slaying, DeFalco was charged with misdemeanor theft after stealing a pair of gold and emerald earrings, two sapphire rings and one diamond ring belonging to her 61-year-old mother and pawning them for $252.
After being released on an identification bond and returning home, prosecutors said DeFalco and her mother had an argument that lasted into the next morning.
Authorities said Judith DeFalco was strangled and left sitting on the floor, propped up against a massage chair in her locked bedroom, after ordering her daughter to leave the house. Judith DeFalco's husband found her later that day, after looking through a bedroom window.
Woodridge police found Stephanie about eight hours later, sitting in her mother's car at 1:40 a.m. in a furniture store parking lot. Prosecutors said she was intoxicated and in possession of heroin and several needles.
During the investigation, DeFalco admitted to "choking her mother out" while being high on the sedative Ativan. Lombard Detective Tom Balsitis said DeFalco put her mother in a headlock chokehold and began to squeeze.
Assistant State's Attorney James Scaliatine called DeFalco's actions the "high cost of low living."
"When confronted by her mother, the defendant could have just walked out the door. She probably could have even taken the car again and no one would have cared," he said. "Instead she decided to escalate it into a physical confrontation with her mother.
"This wasn't an 'Oops. Mom's dead.' This was a murder."
Supervising Assistant Public Defender Jennifer Maples highlighted DeFalco's troubled history of drug addiction as she argued for the 20-year minimum sentence. She also insisted it was DeFalco who wanted to plead guilty and put the case to rest from the first time they met after the murder.
"She never intended these horrible consequences," Maples said. "She is deeply ashamed that she ever put her hands on her mother."
DeFalco must serve the entire 26-year sentence, followed by three years of parole. She receives credit for the roughly 400 days she has been held on $3 million bail since her arrest.