After a two-hour court session on Monday (Jan. 14), a man who was charged for killing then-15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton was sentenced to 84 years in prison, The Chicago Tribune reports. Micheail Ward, 24, faced first-degree murder alongside a charge for aggravated use of a weapon.
“Hadiya is serving a death sentence handed down by Micheail Ward, and all the family is doing life as a result of her death,” Hadiya’s mother Cleopatra Cowley said. On Jan. 29, 2013, the teenager was gunned down in Kenwood, Chicago’s Harsh Park. The King College Prep High School honor roll student was with a group of friends when Ward mistook them for rival gang members and opened fire. The bullets fatally struck the teenager in the back. “Never in my existence did I think that my baby, my baby girl who gave meaning to my life, never in a million years did I think someone would come cause her harm,” Cowley said.
Once news of the student’s death ignited conversations about the senseless gun and gang violence across the country, former first lady and Chicago native Michelle Obama was moved to speak on how close to home Hadiya’s death hit for her.
“As I visited with the Pendleton family at Hadiya’s funeral, I couldn’t get over how familiar they felt to me, because what I realized was Hadiya’s family was just like my family. Hadiya Pendleton was me, and I was her…,” Obama said, per MSNBC. “But I got to grow up and go to Princeton and Harvard Law School and have a career and family and the most blessed life I could ever imagine…And Hadiya? Oh, we know that story. This isn’t some war zone half a world away, this is our home. This kind of violence is what young people here face every single day.”
Another suspect, Kenneth Williams, was also arrested and deemed guilty of aggravated battery. Authorities state he was the getaway driver. His sentencing trial is still forthcoming.