Ralph Elliott had volunteered to pick up food for the Christmas Eve party he and his wife had hosted for more than 50 years.
But as he stepped into his car with an armload of chicken at a Popeye's restaurant in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood, Elliott was fatally shot during a robbery attempt in 2009.
Thursday, an angry Cook County judge imposed a mandatory life sentence on Lee Cration, who was on parole for a previous murder when he killed Elliott, 79.
"You have a heart that is malignant and a soul that is depraved," Judge James Linn said as he handed down the maximum sentence.
Prosecutors said Cration, 49, had been on parole for about a year after serving most of a 28-year sentence for a 1984 murder when he targeted Elliott as he looked for someone to rob in the restaurant parking lot at 818 E. 47th St. He was still on the streets despite an active arrest warrant for repeatedly failing to comply with his parole, authorities said.
Elliott's widow, Dolores, 77, said she was thankful for the surveillance video that captured the murder because it proved that Cration was the killer despite his protestations of innocence. But the awful part, she said, was having to watch the slaying unfold on the screen over and over at trial.
"I am praying that God will take that image out of my head someday," she said after the sentencing. "It's a terrible thing … but the evidence was clear. My husband did not have a chance."