Man who set landlord on fire officially sentenced

October 13, 2011 3:04:24 PM PDT
A Chicago man who pleaded guilty to the murder of his landlord was sentenced to 50 years in prison Thursday.

The landlord, Harlan Hayes, died after he was set on fire by Donald Hardy three years ago.

It is a sentence the victim's family and prosecutors say is too light for a crime that was originally a death penalty case. Harlan Hayes was killed by a former tenant who was angry because the City of Chicago asked Hayes to evict hardy for drug activity.

Zakryscha Hayes walked out of court in the middle of the judge's explanation of why he was giving Donald Hardy a 50-year sentence for murdering Hayes' uncle. Three years ago, Hardy doused Harlan Hayes with gasoline and set the 77-year-old landlord on fire.

"We would have felt much better, our pain would have been eased, had he gotten natural life in prison... what he deserved," said Zakryscha Hayes.

Fifty years was offered to Donald Hardy when he decided to plead guilty at a pre-trial hearing in August.

Harlan Hayes' family begged Judge Nicholas Ford to give Hardy more time, but Ford told them, "No amount of years would change the outcome."

The defense says 50 years is more than a fair sentence for someone they say was abused as a child, has a low IQ and mental disabilities.

"This could have been a not guilty by reason of insanity. How would they feel then?" said Mari Jane Placek, Hardy's attorney. "Donald is the one who pushed this. Donald is the one who's sorry. Donald is the one who brought closure."

"The only reason why he pleaded guilty is because he was offered 50 years," said Zakryscha Hayes.

While unhappy with the sentence, Harlan Hayes' daughter says she is willing to accept it because she wants to move on.

Lisa Stovall says her father's murder has left her with depression and sleepless nights for three years.

"He was everything to me, my friend, my father, counselor, my mentor. Now that's gone," Stovall said.

Harlan Hayes was a former Marine who organized community groups in the Woodlawn neighborhood. The 77-year-old's family says he was the caretaker for his disabled sister and was very generous to his neighbors, including offering Donald Hardy's family a place to live.

Hardy will be 79 years old when he gets out of prison.

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