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Man gets 81 years for murdering St. Charles pizza delivery woman
By Christy Gutowski | Daily Herald Staff

Bradley M. Justice

 

Karen T. Hassan

 

las, Laura Stoecker

Police tape at the firewood lot at 3N361 Powis Road, just north of North Avenue near West Chicago, where Karen Hassan of St. Charles was slain on Nov. 2, 2006.

 

Daily herald file photo

Chris Hassan, of St. Charles, wipes away tears in November 2006 while reacting to the murder of his mother, Karen, who was raped and beaten to death while delivering pizzas near West Chicago.

 

Daily herald file photo

Two of Karen Hassan sons, Chris Hassan and Steve Hassan, during a winter 2006 candlelight vigil for their slain mother.

 

Daily Herald file photo

Karen Hassan's sons, left to right, Nicholas, then 20, Chris, 22, and Andy, 18, days after their mother's Nov. 2, 2006, murder.

 

Daily herald file photo

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Published: 6/29/2009 4:46 PM

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Bradley M. Justice was sentenced Monday to 81 years in prison for killing a St. Charles single mother out delivering pizzas to support her family.

DuPage Circuit Judge Peter J. Dockery meted out the punishment after an earlier ruling in which he found the murder to be exceptionally brutal, heinous and cruel. Justice faced a possible sentence of 20 years to natural life.

Justice, 31, of Sandwich, did not outwardly react after learning his fate. The slain woman's four sons said Justice deserved the harshest sentence possible.

The boys, ages 27 to 21, have been regulars in the DuPage County courtroom in the years since their mother's murder.

"We wanted to make sure justice was served, that her life wasn't ignored," said Chris Hassan, 24. "She wasn't just another statistic. She was a person - our mother."

Justice admitted repeatedly beating 41-year-old Karen Hassan with a hammer Nov. 2, 2006, in a secluded firewood lot near West Chicago while she was set to deliver about $70 worth of pizza, chicken wings and soda. He stole her cellular phone, credit cards and about $400 during the violent robbery and later bought crack cocaine.

Police nabbed Justice the next day in downstate Tuscola after tracking the use of the stolen phone, which he used repeatedly.

"The murder of Mrs. Hassan was grossly ruthless," Judge Dockery said. "The defendant's actions were cold, malicious and were motivated, in part, to acquire money to buy drugs."

Justice declined an opportunity to speak in the packed courtroom. Beforehand, he wrote an apologetic letter to Hassan's family and said he never intended to kill her, but became paranoid after a long drug binge and feared she'd call police after she spotted his cocaine and related paraphernalia.

"In no way can I ever explain to others or even myself why I did what I did," Justice wrote. "I just don't understand it. I am not a violent person and I've never done violent things. Never in my life could I have ever imagined my abuse of drugs could have affected others like it has."

Prosecutors Robert Berlin and Audriana Anderson sought a life prison term. The defense team, DuPage Public Defender Robert Miller and Ricky Holman, a senior assistant, argued Justice has potential while drug-free and sober. They asked for a 30-year sentence.

Miller noted the steps Justice has taken in jail to improve himself, including completion of myriad religious and educational classes. A half-dozen prison ministry and jail officials also wrote letters to the judge seeking mercy.

His mother, Jamie Taff, described a younger Justice who helped her raise two younger sons, excelled in sports, especially baseball, and went to college before drugs took over his life.

The murder was captured in a 90-second audio recording. Hassan, who realized she was in trouble, had redialed her attorney; the lawyer's 24-hour answering service recorded the call.

Each blow is audible. More than once, Hassan asks, "What are you doing? Stop it! Help!" The recording ends with her anguished moans.

"What he did to our mother was so brutal," said Nick Hassan, 23. "I cannot ever understand why. She was very sweet and kind to everyone she met and knew. She worked very hard to provide for us and would spend her last dollar on us. She helped us get through life after our father died. Our family was robbed of our only living parent, who in her last moments begged for her life."