6 years after her death, killer of girl who played at Obama inauguration is sentenced to 84 years in prison

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Cleopatra Cowley says her daughter, Hadiya Pendleton, had hopes of studying abroad one day.

The family had been preparing for a trip overseas and was planning to get Hadiya’s passport that coming weekend, Cowley said.

“Instead we had to plan her funeral,” Cowley said Monday at the sentencing of her 15-year-old daughter’s killer. Cowley’s reading was aired on CNN affiliate WLS-TV.

Hadiya was shot and killed in January 2013 in a case of mistaken identity. A week before she was shot, Hadiya performed with her marching band at an event for then-President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. Michelle Obama and members of the Obama administration attended her funeral.

On Monday, six years after Hadiya’s death, Michaeil Ward was sentenced to 84 years in prison.

“I loathe Michaeil and his very existence because every breath he gets to take is one breath more than my 15-year-old daughter was allowed to breathe,” Cowley said while reading her statement in court. “Hadiya is serving a death sentence handed down by Michaeil Ward and the family is doing life as a result of her death.”

Police had said that Ward had confessed to shooting Pendleton and two others in a case of mistaken identity. His defense attorney had argued that Ward’s videotaped interrogation had been forced because police were under pressure to solve the crime quickly, according to CNN affiliate WLS.

A Cook County jury delivered a guilty verdict in August against Ward for first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated battery.

On Monday, Ward made an emotional plea accusing the prosecution of not looking at all of the evidence, saying his cellphone pinged in a different part of town and it would have been impossible for him to reach the scene of the crime in the time frame officials had given.

Ward also asked why the murder weapon had never been presented.

Ward pointed to the Pendleton family as he spoke, “I just want to know that.”

“I just been found guilty and now I have to go do my life in jail because of something that all y’all had to do was take time to investigate,” Ward said.

Ward was the second defendant in the trial to be convicted. The getaway driver, Kenneth Williams, was also found guilty of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated battery by another jury last August. The two were tried together, but had separate juries.

“This has been hell,” Cowley said. She also asked the judge to give Ward the “maximum penalty that the law will allow.”

Cowley says Hadiya talked of being a veterinarian or a journalist.

“Who knows what my daughter could’ve been.”

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