James Ealy gets life in Burger King murder of Mary Hutchison in Lindenhurst

October 9, 2013 (WAUKEGAN, Ill.)

Ealy, 48, was found guilty of the gruesome murder at a Lindenhurst Burger King where he used to work in May. He stabbed Mary Hutchison, his former boss, with a screwdriver and strangled her with the bowtie from her uniform.

A smirking James Ealy seemed confident in court, even smiled and nodded at the victim's family. When the judge sentenced him to life in jail, he repeated he was innocent, and said he was set up by police.

''Whether you give me one day or give me life, I am still going to fight because I did not commit the crime,'' Ealy said.

Ealy's words of innocence came as no surprise to Hutchison's family.

"I doubted he would suddenly change his tune and come clean," Richard Nothnagel, Hutchison's son, said.

During Wednesday's sentencing, prosecutors detailed Ealy's extensive criminal past, which included a quadruple homicide. Ealy was convicted in 1982 of strangling a pregnant woman and her 3 children. An appellate court later threw out that case because of problems in the investigation.

Prosecutors say Ealy's motivation was money, and that cash from the fast food restaurant was later found in his apartment.

"We're all going to face judgment day. A lie is a lie, and one day he will get his ultimate judgment like we all will," Ken Hutchison, victim's husband, said.

Wednesday's decision doesn't make anything easier for Richard Dean, Hutchison's father.

"Closure to this chapter, but closure doesn't come until I die," Dean said.

During the trial, investigators said money was the motivation for the robbery and murder, and that police found cash from the Burger King in Ealy's apartment. Also, records showed he called the restaurant just minutes before the murder. Ealy's defense attorneys argued there wasn't enough physical evidence for the conviction.

During the sentencing hearing on Wednesday, three members of Hutchison's family spoke, including her husband. Ken Hutchison said, "His actions have taken away a special and wonderful wife, daughter, sister and grandmother. He took away my best friend and companion."

Ealy's lawyers told the judge in court Wednesday that they do plan to appeal this sentence.

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