COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — A man who shoved a 68-year-old woman down a flight of CTA stairs was sentenced Friday to 32 years in prison, following more than an hour of heartbreaking statements read by the victim's children.
Prince Watson, 18, who pleaded guilty to her murder and two counts of robbery, was reportedly trying to steal the Sally Katona-King's cellphone at the Fullerton "L" stop in 2011. She was knocked down a flight of stairs and later died.
"The cerebral bleeding was so bad that blood flowed out of [her] eyes like tears," Kimberly Katona said of her mother at the hospital. "I have to live with that image for the rest of my life."
Watson's attorney described the "wreckage" of her client's life: he was born in Cabrini-Green to a drug- and alcohol-abusing mother and his brother was murdered.
Katona said her mother also didn't have "an easy life."
Katona-King "went hungry" and suffered from poverty as a result of her father's alcoholism, her daughter told the court. Katona-King was sexually assaulted in a gangway by a stranger at the age of 8 and survived polio. Her second husband was shot and killed in an armed robbery.
Her mother, Katona said, "not only managed to survive, but she made her life good, despite the adversities."
Known for her generosity, Katona-King served as a deacon at Logan Square's First Evangelical Lutheran Church and tirelessly volunteered her time to the less fortunate.
Watson was arrested and charged in Katona-King's murder a few months after her death when cops caught Watson ripping off another "L" commuter.
Assistant Public Defender Susan Smith said Watson, as a child, had no "male role models except a couple people who were in prison."
"Nothing good happened in that courtroom today," she said. "Nothing good happened in this case ... It's like the judge said, he didn't go there with murder in his heart."
Judge James Linn sentenced Watson to 32 years, giving him credit for the two years he has spent in Cook County Jail awaiting trial.
The news of Watson's sentence and some needed closure in the case was met with relief by Rev. Eardley Mendis, who said he was glad to know the teenager would be off the streets and said he hopes Watson serves the full sentence.
"I hope he won't be able to come out and rob another person again," Mendis said. "For a person to lose their life just for a cellphone, it doesn't make any sense."
But Mendis also said society is also partly to blame for "disconnected youth" like Watson.
"It's very sad," the reverend said. "We cannot put the whole blame on him. We are all responsible."
Mendis said his congregation, which holds an annual memorial mass for Katona-King, will be glad to hear the news.
But the Katona-King's family said the pain that came with their mother's death has been long-lasting. Her daughter, Eileen Katona, said she became angry easily, taking her frustration out on her 9-year-old son.
Her son, David King, called her loss "devastating." He lived with Katona-King, and after her death lost his job and his home.
"Life as I knew it is gone," he said.
Friday night, Eileen Katona said she was glad the ordeal was over but said the death of her mom and the aftermath was still "very sad."
"It's just very sad for our family and for his family," Katona said.