(WGN-AM)- Cook County judge ruled Wednesday that James Pender is eligible for the death penalty for killing his estranged wife with a hammer as she walked home from the River Forest Metra station after work in March 2005.
Pender, 57, of Harwood Heights pleaded guilty to the slaying Tuesday just as his jury trial was about to begin. The state is seeking the death penalty for Pender, which prompted Wednesday's hearing before Circuit Court Judge Thomas Tucker to determine if Pender is eligible to receive capital punishment. Tucker is scheduled to sentence Pender at a hearing on June 23.
Both factors were easily documented with a birth certificate and court records showing that a Dec. 17, 2004 order of protection had been extended until April 26, 2005 and James Pender had been notified.
During the June 23 hearing prosecutors will present evidence to support their case for the death penalty. The defense will also put on witnesses to discuss Pender's psychological history and other issues in an effort to convince the judge to spare his life, said Assistant Public Defender Preston Jones Jr.
Tucker will have wide latitude when sentencing Pender. The minimum sentence is 20 years. The maximum sentence is death.
Therese Pender's family, many of whom were in court Wednesday, would like him to receive the maximum penalty.
"It's a step. We're getting there," said Therese Pender's sister Lisa Janopoulos, who has attended every court date since James Pender was charged more than four years ago.
Pender was arrested March 16, 2005 near where Therese Pender was attacked in the 500 block of Park Avenue in River Forest. During Tuesday's hearing prosecutors indicated that he had taken the Metra train to River Forest and waited in a nearby park.
He had a briefcase containing knives, a lead pipe, chisel and a hammer. When he saw Therese Pender walking across the street about 6:15 p.m. he took the hammer out of the briefcase and approached her from behind striking her once on the head.
When she screamed and ran he followed her striking her in the head repeatedly. She died a short time later at Loyola University Medical Center.
The coat Pender was wearing and the hammer both had Therese Pender's blood on them and he had her cell phone.
(The Chicago Tribune contributed to this story)
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Man Who Killed Wife With Hammer Eligible For Death Penalty
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