CARTHAGE, Ill. -- If Antonio Sanchez endured a jury trial and was found guilty of first-degree murder, Judge Raymond Cavanaugh made it clear that he would have had no trouble sentencing him to the minimum 45 years of prison or more.
Cavanaugh concurred with the negotiated plea deal where the 18-year-old Hamilton resident pleaded guilty to lesser charges and was sentenced to 20 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections in the New Year's Day shooting death of 19-year-old Madison Finch of LaHarpe.
Cavanaugh told Sanchez he caused irreparable damage to the Finch family.
"They will never hold a grandchild," said Cavanaugh, pausing as he choked up from his emotions. "Mr. Finch will never get to walk Madison down the aisle."
Sanchez, 18, pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree murder and one count of home invasion Wednesday in Hancock County Circuit Court as part of a negotiated plea deal, which called for 20-year sentences for each count to be served concurrently. He must serve 85 percent of the sentence, meaning at least 17 years.
Sanchez originally faced three counts of first-degree murder and one count of aggravated battery.
With the plea, Sanchez admitted to shooting Finch with a .22-caliber gun during a New Year's Eve party at Finch's Home at 106 Conch Drive, LaHarpe. The shooting reportedly happened during a fight that broke out at the party.
In a prepared statement, Hancock County State's Attorney Rachel Mast said the Finch family and the community continue to grieve her loss.
"Maddie's family has been put through an unimaginable nightmare that no parent should ever have to go through," Mast said. "The facts of this case required the careful consideration of the loss of life to Maddie based on the irreparable acts of the defendant. While this case has legally been resolved, there is no justice that will bring Maddie back, and the lives of both families will forever be changed."
In his statement to the court, Sanchez said he was ready to accept responsibility for his actions.
"Mr. and Mrs. Finch, I'm sorry for taking Maddie from you," he said. "I know she was only trying to help. I'm sorry for the pain I've caused you and your family."
The plea was negotiated Tuesday morning. Sanchez's attorney, Drew Schnack, said that had the case gone to trial, Sanchez likely would have faced a sentence exceeding the minimum.
"They didn't want to put the community through all this," Schnack said.
The case was set for trial this week -- eight jurors were selected Monday -- but Sanchez waived his right to a jury trial Tuesday morning.
Sanchez has been held in the Hancock County Jail without bond since his arrest. He received credit for 254 days already served.