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Lovejoy sentenced for 2004 murder of Aurora teen

On Monday, for the second time, Valerie Justice read a victim impact statement about how her daughter’s murder has affected her life. Following are excerpts:

“Have you ever been robbed? Can you imagine having everything that matters in your life suddenly ripped away? My daughter was my life.

“She had the biggest, most beautiful eyes, and the deepest ‘soup bowl’ dimples. She wasn’t a perfect child, but she sure was my child.

“When Erin died, I died. All I wanted was to see my daughter realize her dreams and therefore fulfill my own. ... We talked about wedding dresses and, even though she was only 16, we had already talked about my grandchildren, which I desperately looked forward to. Well, I have been robbed of all that.

“The day I found her brutally cut up, bleeding and drowned is indelibly etched in my mind. It took a very, very long time before I could close my eyes because when I closed my eyes, all I could see was Erin in that bathtub. And to this day the mere thought of stepping into a nice hot tub of water to take a relaxing bath makes me physically ill.

“I also live with the guilt of feeling that I did not do nearly enough to protect my precious child from someone that she should not have needed protection from.

“I know you’ve seen a lot of pictures of Erin, but I wish I could show you the ones that would show just how beautiful she was — you could actually look at her and see just how beautiful she was on the inside, too. My life will never, ever be the same without her.

“So if you have never been robbed, consider yourself robbed as of March 27, 2004, because you will never get to experience the joy of knowing my beloved daughter, Erin Janea Justice.”

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

WHEATON — Laurence Lovejoy avoided the death penalty twice. Now he will spend the rest of his life in prison.

On Tuesday, DuPage County Judge Kathryn Creswell sentenced Lovejoy to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 2004 murder of his stepdaughter, 16-year-old Erin Justice of Aurora. Creswell called Lovejoy’s crime “shockingly evil.”

“I’ve seen a lot of crime scenes in the last 25 years,” she said. “None compare to what is depicted (here). The pain and terror that Erin suffered is obvious.”

Lovejoy, 44, of Naperville, was convicted of killing the Waubonsie Valley High School sophomore to keep her from testifying that he had raped her.

Prosecutors said that on March 27, 2004, Lovejoy beat Justice with a frying pan, stabbed her with a kitchen knife, poisoned her with cough medicine and then drowned her in the bathtub of the townhouse she shared with her mother on Aurora’s far East Side.

Justice’s mother, Valerie, called her daughter repeatedly that afternoon and left work early when she could not reach the teen. She discovered her daughter’s body in the second-floor bathroom.

“He showed up with a purpose: to kill her,” said DuPage County State’s Attorney Bob Berlin. “He went there to make her suffer and that’s what he did.”

Lovejoy had previously been convicted of the murder and sentenced to death in 2007, but the appellate court overturned the verdict because of questions about key blood evidence. When he was tried for a second time, the jury took less than two hours to convict Lovejoy — and that included a break for lunch.

But the second jury decided last month that Lovejoy was not eligible for the death penalty and left the sentencing up to Creswell. (Lovejoy would not have faced death anyway, because Gov. Pat Quinn subsequently cleared death row.)

On Tuesday, most of the testimony from the first sentencing was introduced as evidence, then both Justice’s mother and father gave emotional statements.

“She (Erin) had so many days where I said: I can’t wait till she grows up. She’s going to be dynamic,” her father, Ederick Justice said. “I felt like the luckiest man on Earth to have such a daughter. I loved that girl.”

Defense attorneys asked for a sentence of less than life. In a brief argument, they pointed out the crime was not as horrific as multiple murders or other crimes, and therefore did not deserve what is now Illinois’ ultimate punishment.

Creswell pointed out that Lovejoy had a criminal history, including time in prison for burglary and residential burglary. He also had a poor work ethic, a daughter he didn’t support and numerous discipline issues in court and prison.

“Even if he’d led the life of Mother Theresa up to March 27, 2004, it’s nothing compared to the atrocity he committed on a beautiful 16-year-old who had her whole life ahead of her,” the judge said.

Before she announced her sentence, Creswell asked Lovejoy if he wanted to make a statement.

“I never raped, I never murdered anyone and yet I have been found guilty,” he told the judge.

In most cases, the prosecution’s case suffers in a second trial because witnesses move or evidence is lost. Creswell said this case was the exception.

“The evidence of the defendant’s guilt is overwhelming,” she said. “Twenty-four jurors have said so.”

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