Shannon McNamara's killer raped, beat and strangled her. Her mother says Anthony Mertz was next up on death row.
"Once he's gone, dead no other female or woman will ever, ever have to be afraid of Mertz ever again," said Cindy McNamara
In one day, that changed.
"As long as he's alive, there's a chance that he might get out. And he's still young. And I think that's what his evil mind is thinking," said McNamara.
McNamara wanted the death penalty, and so did the family of Jeanine Nicarico, who was 10 years old when she was kidnapped and raped in 1983. The killer, Brian Dugan, got death -- until Wednesday.
"It leaves me thinking that Brian Dugan beat the system. He deserves the death penalty - he got it. But was never carried out and now it never will be carried out. So there is great joy in prison tonight," said Tom Nicarico, Jeanine's father.
There is great joy for some - men convicted under former Chicago Police Commander John Burge.
Ronald Kitchen spent 13 years on death row and was exonerated in 2009. He says this is one step in a long broken system.
"The fight has to continue. The system is still what it is. The system is still a flawed system," said Kitchen.
Victor Safforld, also a former death row inmate, says humans make mistakes and a life is too much to take away.
"Governor Quinn has really gave people hope and inspiration that there are people in the system who actually care about human beings," said Safforld.