Life sentence for man who killed his neighbor in her Schaumburg apartment
The justice Tiffany Thrasher's family sought for more than two years came Wednesday, when Cook County Judge Steven Goebel sentenced the man who sexually assaulted and strangled her to spend the rest of his life in prison.
Goebel, who found Bulmaro Mejia-Maya, 32, guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault and home invasion last June after a two-day bench trial, described the attack as a "violent, brutal and barbaric act."
"If any case warrants a natural life sentence it's this one," said Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Denise Loiterstein.
"Twenty-nine months later justice has been served, but it doesn't bring her back," said Karen Thrasher, Tiffany's mother, who wore a T-shirt with Thrasher's photograph. "He can have family visit him. All I have is my T-shirt to hug."
The sentence satisfied Tiffany Thrasher's sister, Misty King, who thanked prosecutors and police officers for their efforts.
"At the end of the day, I'd rather have my sister back," said King, who recalled in her victim impact statement Thrasher's "contagious laugh, warm smile and love ... she freely gave to so many."
King's daughter Samantha -- Thrasher's niece and roommate who was not at home at the time of the attack -- wrote about her aunt's "passion for animal rights and her sweet little rescue dogs" Izzy and Diego.
"She was my best friend, my roommate and my confidante ... but you took all of that away. You took away a beautiful soul," wrote Samantha King, who spoke of her aunt's faith and forgiving nature.
"I know that if Tiffany would want anything at all, it would be for me to forgive you, so I do because that is what Jesus does," she wrote.
On the evening of April 15, 2017, Mejia-Maya -- who lived with five co-workers in a Schaumburg apartment about 50 feet from Thrasher's apartment -- climbed into her first-floor apartment through a window and confronted her as she came out of the bathroom. Mejia-Maya pushed her onto the bed, sexually assaulted and strangled her.
Authorities discovered the 32-year-old's body after friends and fellow parishioners from the Living Hope Church in Elk Grove Village called police the next day to report she had missed the Easter Sunday service.
Police linked Mejia-Maya to the crimes through DNA, footprints and fingerprints found at the scene.
Assistant Cook County Public Defender Caroline Glennon introduced letters Meija-Maya's family submitted on his behalf that described how he worked six days a week for a drywall company for seven years to provide for his siblings.
Meija-Maya "was the financial support for all of them," Glennon said.
She also pointed out her client was "very, very drunk."
"It does not excuse the crime by any stretch of the imagination," she said. "It is a mitigating factor."
It did not sway Goebel.
"It was a very demeaning, denigrating violation of her body and her mind," Goebel said. "This court cannot comprehend and does not understand the brutality you exhibited to the victim."
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