Victim’s family finds little peace in Ealy’s conviction

BY BILL GUIDA
bguida@kenoshanews.com
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WAUKEGAN, ILL. — Ken Hutchison said the conviction Friday of James Ealy for killing Hutchison’s wife, Mary, six-and-a-half years ago brought the family little, if any, peace.

“It’s not a day of closure,” Hutchison said, eyes red-rimmed and wet with tears. “Closure for us is going to be the death penalty — which has been taken off the table.”

Said Mary Hutchison’s equally emotional father, Richard Dean, of Trevor, after the Lake County, Ill., jury found Ealy, 48, guilty of first-degree murder, “Closure will only come the day I die.”

Ken Hutchison said moving on for the family will come without forgetting how they lost Mary, 45.

“You never close the book, but you learn to turn the page,” he said. “But we will always go back to Chapter One. ... We know we’ll all see Mary again. The chain has been broken, but we know we’ll all link up again in heaven.”

Family speaks to press

Dean and Ken Hutchison spoke at a press conference late Friday afternoon in the lobby of the Lake County Courthouse shortly after the verdict was returned. They were joined by Ken and Mary’s daughter, Rebeccah Hutchison, now 19, who was 12 when her mother died, and their son, Richard Nothnagel, 28.

Hutchison, who derided Illinois lawmakers for abolishing the death penalty in 2011, said for him the verdict engendered mixed feelings. He said they “should be ashamed” for what he described as enacting laws he feels protect criminals like Ealy more so than victims of criminal acts.

“I read my Bible. I believe in an eye for an eye ... a life for a life,” Hutchison said. “Life in prison (for Ealy) is the best we can get ... I hope he rots in prison. We’ve waited a long time for this.”

Now, they’ll wait to see how Lake County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Shanes chooses to sentence Ealy, who continues to be held without bond and faces 20 years to life in prison.

Confusing reading of verdicts

Hutchison said prosecutors prepared the family for the possibility jurors might render a not guilty verdict in the trial.

When the verdicts were read, it appeared the jury was about to do just that when they found Ealy not guilty of first-degree murder by knowledge that his actions in apparently stabbing Mary Hutchison multiple times with a screwdriver and strangling her with a necktie could lead to her death.

But on the second verdict, the jury declared Ealy guilty of first-degree intentional murder by “exceptionally heinous” and cruel means while committing felony robbery.

The seemingly contrary verdicts not only puzzled Ken Hutchison, but they had prosecutors clarifying what happened for confused news reporters covering the trial. Assistant State’s Attorney Jeff Pavletic provided assurances the bottom line was that the jury found Ealy guilty of first-degree murder.

Still, upon hearing that first “not guilty” verdict, Ken Hutchison said resolutely and somewhat cryptically, “I prayed because I knew what I was going to do, and we’ll just leave it at that.”

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