WAUKEGAN, Ill. (STMW) — “Let me be clear, I intend that you spend the rest of your days in prison,” a Lake County judge said before sentencing a Wisconsin man to 110 years for the murder of a north suburban girl during a 2007 robbery.
Montago Suggs of Kenosha, convicted of killing 22-year-old Melinda “Mindy” Morrell of Round Lake Park during a robbery in Waukegan, was sentenced Tuesday by Lake Circuit Court Judge Daniel Shanes, the News-Sun is reporting.
In late September, a jury convicted Suggs, 29, of first-degree murder for shooting Morrell in the head during a May 21, 2007, robbery at the former Check ’n Go store on Green Bay Road.
In a subsequent one-day bench trial, Suggs was also found guilty of attempted murder and armed robbery for pointing a gun at the head of a clerk and pulling the trigger at Ma & Pa’s Corner Store at 37737 N. Green Bay Road in Beach Park just five days after Morrell’s murder.
Officials said the gun pointed at the clerk was loaded but no round was in the chamber, which likely saved the man’s life. Suggs then ran away and was later arrested in Wisconsin.
He faced up to life in prison for the murder conviction and up to 45 years on the attempted murder conviction.
After hearing statements from Morrell’s mother and sister, and a quiet declaration of innocence from Suggs, Shanes sentenced him to 80 years for the murder, 28 years for the attempted murder and 30 years in prison for attempted armed robbery.
The latter two sentences will be served consecutively, but only after Suggs has served the entire 80 years for murder.
Shanes called the murder of Morrell, who was lying on the floor of the store when shot execution style, an attempt by Suggs “to cover his tracks” so Morrell could never testify against him.
“In a sense, that bullet was aimed not only at Miss Morrell, but also at our very system of justice,” Shanes said.
Following Suggs’ conviction in September, Morrell’s mother, Sheryl Morrell, said that the former cheerleader was working to save money to go to college to pursue a career in sports medicine. She also spent time teaching her nieces, some of whom attended the trial, cheerleading skills.
On Tuesday, Sheryl Morrell read a statement to the court: “The person I love is gone, the life I have no longer exists, part of me is no more.” She added that her children, grandchildren and family have helped her realize she is still loved and needed.
“I was with Mindy when she took her first breath, but he took her last,” Morrell said. “I will never forgive him for that.”
Suggs spoke briefly and said, “First and foremost, I want to apologize to the family, and second, I want them to know I am not the person who did this.”
Suggs said he was brought up by a good family and was not involved with drugs or gangs. “I am not a monster,” he said.
Assistant State’s Attorney Eric Kalata said the evidence against Suggs in both cases was “overwhelming.”
“There is no doubt Montago Suggs killed Mindy Morrell,” he said.
Morrell’s sister, Nancy Horst, said she will never forget the day Mindy died and the impact it has had on her entire family.
“One of the hardest things I had to do was tell my baby that her auntie is never coming back,” she said. “My youngest child only remembers (Mindy) from pictures and conversations.”
Horst said Tuesday is also a day she will “remember clearly.”
“Today justice will be served against the individual who took Mindy from our family,” she said.
Defense attorneys Randie Bruno and Keith Grant said they will appeal the case, with the first step being a motion to reconsider the sentence, to be filed Jan. 3.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)