CHICAGO (STMW) — A teen was sentenced to 32 years in prison Friday after admitting he pushed a woman to her death on a CTA staircase after stealing another commuter’s iPhone, the Sun-Times is reporting.
Sally Katona-King, a 68-year-old church deacon, died from the injuries she suffered when Prince Watson shoved her at the Fullerton L stop on March 28, 2011.
Watson later sold the iPhone for $350 to $400, and was arrested in August that year.
On Friday, Watson, 19, pleaded guilty to murder and robbery charges stemming Katona-King’s death and other incidents before Judge James Linn.
Watson didn’t speak in court but his attorney, assistant public defender Susan Smith, read a letter, in which Watson said he hopes Katona-King’s family forgives him.
Initially, Watson, who was raised by his grandmother in the notorious Cabrini-Green housing project, said it “hurt in my heart” that he was described as a “cold blooded murderer” in the press.
However, now Watson said in his letter, “I understand what I did was wrong…I know I deserve punishment.
I know I hurt your family…I’m sorry for putting everyone through this. I never wanted to hurt anyone.”
Linn addressed the rough life Watson endured as Katona-King’s family looked on.
“I acknowledge his life was ridiculously difficult and almost impossible to imagine,” Linn said after Smith described the teen’s mother’s deadly overdose, sister’s murder and brother’s incarceration for armed robbery.
Still, Linn said it was “troubling” that Watson insisted on engaging in criminal behavior, even after he knew he killed someone.
“I find that to be very, very disturbing, very, very troubling,” Linn said.
Katona-King’s life was also full of adversity too, her daughter Kimberly Katona said. But unlike, Watson, she “made her life good.”
Katona-King was a deacon at First Lutheran Church of Logan Square, where she was a member since 1985. She helped feed the homeless, committing herself to helping others after suffering several tragedies, including the murder of her second husband and the death of a 2-year-old nephew in a fire.
Katona-King grew up so poor, she often didn’t have food to eat, her daughter said. She was also a polio survivor who was sexually assaulted at the age of 8.
Following her mother’s run-in with Watson, Katona said she was traumatized by the image of her mother in the hospital with her hair “soaked in blood and blood coming out of her eyes like tears.” She died a day after she was pushed.
Katona said Watson’s murderous actions were “an insult to my mother that I will never get over.”
“Her life was taken by a young man for the price of a stolen iPhone,” Katona said.
Upon his arrest for Katona-King’s murder, Watson admitted to police he stole the iPhone and that “he bumped into two ladies who were in his way.” He said he heard screams but didn’t turn around because he didn’t want anyone to see his face, prosecutors said at the time.
Surveillance video and witnesses led to the charges against Watson, who last lived near Division and Wells.
Less than two months following the incident with Katona-King, Watson robbed a commuter of an iPhone on the Red Line stop at Clark and Division
In that robbery, the victim chased down Watson and police arrested him, officials said. He pleaded guilty and received a four-year prison sentence.
Watson also was charged with another robbery of an iPhone on a Brown Line platform at 1536 N. Sedgwick. That robbery led detectives to Watson’s arrest in Katona-King’s murder.
In the letter Smith read in court Friday, Watson said he thought his method of stealing iPhones was the safest and quickest way to grab the popular electronics without hurting anyone.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)