'Irretrievable depravity': Elgin man must serve 62 and a half years in prison for murdering, dismembering mother
Describing "irretrievable depravity exhibited by this defendant," a Cook County judge on Monday sentenced Brian Peck to 75 years in prison for murdering and dismembering his 76-year-old mother in the Elgin home they shared.
"It does not get much worse than that," Judge Joseph Cataldo of Peck killing his mother and using a saw to dismember her.
Cataldo ordered the 60-year-old Peck to serve 50 years for the murder, 20 years for the dismemberment and five years for concealing the death. The latter two sentences are served at 50%, making the length of his term 62½ years, minus the 1,648 days he already has spent in custody.
Peck was convicted in February of killing Gail Peck, a gracious hostess, dog lover, theater enthusiast and breast cancer survivor who friend Desiree Norquist said "had a way of making you feel better."
After her own mother died, friend Sherry Orrico found a surrogate mom in Gail Peck, whom she described as sassy, sweet, intelligent and possessed of an infectious laugh and quick wit.
"She liked to share in a celebration even if there was no occasion," Orrico said during her tearful statement in court Monday.
Gail loved art, travel, music, dining with friends and theater, said Orrico. One of several friends who regularly attended Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace with Gail, Orrico recalled Gail cheering "bravo" as the curtain came down.
When Gail moved in August 2017 to Elgin, about two miles from Orrico's house, Orrico thought, "this is going to be the first of many memories together." Instead, she said she is still tormented from hearing what Gail Peck endured at the hands of her son, who "killed the only person who will ever love him."
"How can you value your mother so cheaply?" said Orrico. "She did not get the honor she deserves because she is buried in pieces with parts of her still missing."
"Now I know evil is just evil," she sobbed. "There's nothing to understand."
Peck, who is 6 feet tall and weighed about 250 at the time, claimed he killed his mother in self-defense when she came at him with a military-grade survival knife after becoming annoyed at him for playing a Jimi Hendrix song on repeat. Gail, who had spinal fusion surgery in 2015, was 5 feet, 4 inches tall and 140 pounds.
Peck testified a struggle ensued, during which he "swept her leg," knocking her to the floor. He said he then pushed her face to the floor "in a stomping motion" and put his foot on her throat. He claimed he later dismembered his mother because he was panic-stricken and feared the police.
Later on Oct. 25, 2017, Peck placed some of his mother's remains into plastic garbage bags and tossed them into Lake Michigan at Montrose Harbor. Other remains were placed into a rolling suitcase and a duffle bag weighed down with brick pavers and thrown into Chicago's Lincoln Park Lagoon the next day.
On Oct. 27, 2017, Peck reported his mother missing, claiming she took her dog for a walk. The dog returned but Gail did not, Peck said. The following day, a man fishing in the lagoon hooked the duffle bag with her partial remains.
Prosecutors on Monday sought the maximum sentence on all charges, saying Peck expressed no remorse for the killing. Defense attorneys said any sentence beyond the 28-year minimum amounted to a life sentence for the 60-year-old Elgin man.
Gail Peck's friends held hands and cried during her son's statement in court Monday, when he tearfully claimed, "I loved my mom with all my heart and soul." Elgin police detectives turned away.
Peck's tears did not sway Cataldo, who described his trial testimony as an attempt "to justify the unjustifiable."
Most disturbing was "listening to him testify how he sawed her into pieces, all with no emotion whatsoever," after which he "gave her a burial in her suitcase coffin," Cataldo said.