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Man gets 110-year prison sentence for murder of store clerk

Montago Suggs

Montago Suggs

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Updated: January 12, 2014 6:23AM

Montago Suggs, convicted of killing 22-year-old Melinda “Mindy” Morrell of Round Lake Park during a 2007 robbery in Waukegan, was sentenced Tuesday to 110 years in prison.

“Let me be clear, I intend that you spend the rest of your days in prison,” Lake County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Shanes said in handing down the sentence.

In late September, a jury convicted Suggs, 29, of Kenosha, of first-degree murder for shooting Morrell in the head during a May 21, 2007, robbery of the former Waukegan Check ’n Go store on Green Bay Road.

In a subsequent one-day bench trial, Suggs was also found guilty of attempted first-degree murder and armed robbery for pointing a gun at the head of a clerk and pulling the trigger at the Ma & Pa’s Corner Store, 37737 N. Green Bay Road, Beach Park, just five days after Morrell’s murder.

Officials said the gun pointed at the clerk was loaded but no round was in the chamber, which likely saved the man’s life. Suggs then fled the store and was later arrested in Wisconsin.

He faced up to life in prison for the murder conviction and up to 45 years in prison on the attempted murder conviction.

After hearing impact statements from Morrell’s mother and sister, and a quiet declaration of innocence from Suggs, Shanes sentenced Suggs to 80 years in prison for the first degree murder conviction, which must be served at 100 percent.

He sentenced Suggs to 28 years in prison for for the attempted murder at the Ma & Pa’s store and 30 years in prison for attempted armed robbery in that case. Those two sentences will be served consecutively, but not until after Suggs has served the entire 80 years for Morrell’s murder.

Shanes called the murder of Morrell, who was lying on the floor of the store and shot execution style, an attempt by Suggs “to cover his tracks” so that Morrell could never testify against him.

“In a sense, that bullet was aimed not only at Miss Morrell, but also at our very system of justice,” Shanes said.

Following Suggs’ conviction in September, Morrell’s mother, Sheryl Morrell, said that Mindy, a former Spartan cheerleader in Round Lake, was working to save money and that she wanted to go to college to pursue a career in sports medicine, and also spent time teaching her nieces, some of whom attended the trial, cheerleading skills.

On Tuesday, Sheryl Morrell read a victim impact statement to the court prior to Suggs’ sentencing.

“The person I love is gone, the life I have no longer exists, part of me is no more,” she said, adding that her children, grandchildren and family have helped her realize she is still loved and needed.

“I was with Mindy when she took her first breath, but he took her last (one),” Morrell said. “I will never forgive him for that.”

Suggs spoke briefly before being sentenced, and said “first and foremost, I want to apologize to the family, and second, I want them to know I am not the person who did this.”

Suggs said he was brought up by a good family, and was not involved with drugs or gangs. “I am not a monster,” he said.

Assistant State’s Attorney Eric Kalata said the evidence against Suggs in both cases was “overwhelming.”

“There is no doubt Montago Suggs killed Mindy Morrell,” he said.

Morrell’s sister, Nancy Horst, said she will never forget the day that Mindy died and the impact it has had on her entire family since.

“One of the hardest things I had to do was tell my baby that her auntie is never coming back,” she said. “My youngest child only remembers (Mindy) from pictures and conversations.”

Horst said Tuesday is also a day she will “remember clearly.”

“Today justice will be served against the individual who took Mindy from our family,” she said.

Defense attorneys Randie Bruno and Keith Grant said they will appeal the case, with the first step being a motion to reconsider the sentence, scheduled to be heard Jan. 3.

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