Ehab Qasem pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder in exchange for a 40-year glimmer of hope that he would one day walk away free from a state prison.
The 25-year-old Qasem, shackled in handcuffs and leg irons, stood in a lonely courtroom Wednesday morning and listened to assistant state’s attorney Donna Norton describe his actions during the early morning hours of Sept. 11, 2011, when he helped murder his friend John Granat’s parents as they slept in their beds.
The prosecutors had recommended a 40-year sentence in exchange for Qasem’s “truthful testimony” during January’s double-murder trial of Granat and co-defendant Christopher Wyma. Granat and Wyma, both 22, were found guilty by a jury after days of often grisly testimony.
Another teen, Mohammed Salahat, the then 16-year-old driver in the heinous plot, pleaded guilty last year before Judge Neil Linehan. Salahat is now serving a 35-year sentence at the Menard Correctional Center.
Qasem was the oldest of the quartet and a 19-year-old student at Moraine Valley Community College, when he testified how he and Wyma crept up the stairs of John and Maria Granat’s upscale home in unincorporated Palos Park.
Standing on either side of the sleeping couple’s bed, Qasem said Wyma swung first, bludgeoning the older Granat, while Qasem battered Maria. The couple’s son was downstairs in the garage counting the tens of thousands of dollars he had stolen from his parents, which the teens later divvied up.
Informed that his mother was still alive, the younger Granat handed Qasem a knife and told him to go finish her off. Autopsy reports from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office said Maria had been stabbed 21 times, according to court testimony.
Norton reflected on Qasem’s cooperation with Cook County Sheriff’s police after his arrest. Qasem told detectives where the $14,000 he had been paid to commit murder could be found in his bedroom. Qasem also led police to the spot in the forest preserves where he, Wyma and Salahat disposed of the aluminum bats after they had lied to a grand jury in the days following the slayings.
During Qasem’s sentencing hearing, Judge Neil Lineham told Cook County Sheriff’s deputies to remove the young man’s handcuffs.
“Are you more comfortable?” the judge asked.
Qasem’s attorney, John Eannace, stated that his client agreed with the plea agreement.
“He was 19 when this happened and a student at Moraine Valley Community College,” Eannace told the judge. “He had a goal of becoming a high school math teacher.”
Eannace submitted a draft order that his client to be housed in protective custody at the Pontiac Correctional Center. The attorney also requested that Qasem be kept separate from the other three co-defendants.
Judge Linehan said the sentencing range for one count of first degree murder was 20 to 60 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections, and fines up to $25,000.
“Do you still wish to plead guilty,” the judge asked.
“Yes, your honor,” Qasem said quietly.
“How do you wish to plead,” Judge Linehan asked.
“Guilty, your honor.”
Qasem later stated that he was “truly apologetic” for the pain he brought to the Granat family.
“I accept full responsibility for all my actions,” he said. “It was a horrible night. I’m a better person now. I’ve been praying to God the father that he will bless me for a better outcome.”
Judge Linehan agreed with the prosecutors’ recommended sentence of 40 years.
“I found his testimony to be truthful and consistent with the evidence,” the judge said. “I agree that he is remorseful.”
Qasem must serve all of his sentence, with three years of mandatory supervision after his release. He has received credit for the 1,630 days he has spent incarcerated in Cook County Jail. Qasem will be in his 60s when he is released from prison. Continue Reading
Article Org: patch.com