After being found guilty of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated battery in August, the man found responsible for Hadiya Pendleton’s 2013 murder was sentenced to 84 years in prison.
Hadiya was killed in a drive-by shooting while spending time in a Chicago park with several classmates. It was believed the shooters mistook the group for rival gang members. Hadiya had recently performed at then-President Barack Obama’s inauguration as a majorette for King College Prep High School and had been part of an anti-violence campaign in her city.
Kenneth Williams was convicted for involvement as the getaway driver, and Michaeil Ward was convicted as the shooter. Ward was sentenced to 84 years in prison on Monday but maintains his innocence, per CNN, “accusing the prosecution of not looking at all of the evidence, saying his cellphone pinged in a different part of town and it would have been impossible for him to reach the scene of the crime in the time frame officials had given.”
Ward had initially confessed to the crime but later asserted that he had been coerced.
Haidya’s mother, Cleopatra Cowley, said the drawn out process had been “hell.” Cowley has spent the time since Hadiya’s murder advocating for gun control and working to prevent deaths like her daughter’s.