After six years, the man who fired the shots that killed 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton in 2013 was sentenced to 84 years in prison in a Chicago courtroom on Monday.
Mickiael Ward, now 24, who was 18 at the time of the South Side shooting, faced a minimum sentence of 51 years. A jury found Ward guilty on counts of first-degree murder and aggravated battery but during his sentencing, he defiantly denied he was the gunman who killed Pendleton despite tearfully confessing to the killing.
“I am upset I’m the one going down for a crime I didn’t commit,” Ward said, facing toward Assistant State’s Attorney Brian Holmes. Judge Nicholas Ford pointed out that Ward was more emotional and remorseful when he gave a videotaped confession to detectives soon after Pendleton’s funeral in 2013.
“During the course of the period of time those interviews occurred you saw an erosion of his protestation of innocence,” Ford said according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “He wept in his admission. Those tears were tears of regret over his conduct, that (are) absent today, and noteworthy.”
Pendleton’s parents said they were satisfied with the verdict.
“It’s basically a life sentence, and I think it’s befitting,” Cleo Pendleton said. “Hadiya’s lost her life, and he’s going to spend the rest of his life behind bars.”
Ward and getaway driver, Kenneth Williams, were arrested on the day of Pendleton’s funeral. Her death came two weeks after the King College Prep High School student had performed during Barack Obama’s second inauguration. The park where Pendleton was shot was about a mile from the Obamas’ Chicago home.
Williams, 25, was found guilty of first-degree murder and guilty of aggravated battery on August 22, 2018.