The Illinois man who fatally shot 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton just days after she performed at former President Barack Obama’s second inaugural parade has been sentenced to 84 years in prison.
In handing down the sentence on Monday, Cook County Judge Nicholas Ford criticized 24-year-old Micheail Ward, saying he should take responsibility for Pendleton’s death, CBS Chicago reported.
“He placed blame on almost any source you could imagine, other than his own conduct,” Ford said.
Ford’s remarks came after Ward, 24, claimed he was innocent and accused authorities of failing to find the real killer.
“I am upset that I’m the one that’s going down for a murder that I did not commit, that I just got found guilty, and now I’ve got to go do my life in jail, because of something that all y’all had to do was take time to investigate it,” Ward said in court. “That’s all y’all had to do, was sit down and really investigate this crime, and y’all would have seen what happened.”
Pendleton, an honors student, volleyball player and majorette, was shot and killed on Jan. 29, 2013, while hanging out with friends at Harsh Park in Chicago. Two others were also injured in the shooting. Just the week before, Pendleton, a sophomore in high school, performed with her school’s marching band for former President Barack Obama during his inaugural parade in Washington D.C.
Obama sent a handwritten note to Pendleton’s parents, which read, in part:
“We know that no words from us can soothe the pain, but rest assured that we are praying for you, and that we will continue to work as hard as we can to end this senseless violence.”
Former first lady Michelle Obama attended Pendleton’s funeral. She did not speak during the somber gathering but did meet privately with Pendleton’s friends and family.
Roughly two months after Pendleton’s slaying, police arrested Ward, then 18.
In a videotaped confession, Ward told detectives he was a member of a gang called SUWU and that he had opened fire on Pendleton and her friends because he thought they were members of the rival 46 Terror. Ward’s attorney later contended detectives manipulated his client into making false statements.
In August, Ward and 25-year-old Kenneth Williams, who authorities say acted as the getaway driver, were convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated battery.
According to Chicago’s WLS-TV, Ward’s attorneys filed a motion for a new trial, which was denied.
Per the terms of Ward’s sentence, he will not become parole eligible until he has served at least 76 years behind bars, the Chicago Tribune reported. If he lives that long, he will be 100 years old.
Williams’ sentencing hearing was recently delayed due to a change in defense attorneys. A new date for his hearing has not yet been set.
“I said from Day One we’re going all the way through, and I need to see this all the way through,” Pendleton’s father, Nathaniel Pendleton Sr., told the Chicago Tribune. “People like this need to be off the street, so I’m happy right now. But it’s not over.”