55 years for gunman who killed shop clerk in Bensenville
Stephan Russell knew very early on in the evening of Jan. 19, 2014, when his victims fought back and refused to let him in, that the planned armed robbery of Sam's Tobacco and Food Mart in Bensenville wasn't going well.
"But he did not break it off and just leave. He escalated it," DuPage Chief Judge Daniel Guerin said Wednesday, handing down a 55-year prison sentence for Russell. "(Russell) had chance after chance after chance to leave, but he chose to shoot Hussein Saghir without reason, empathy or respect for his life."
Russell, now 24, faced between 49 years and life in prison. Guerin said his lack of criminal record and the obvious support of his family kept the sentence from being significantly longer.
"It is my sincerest hope that Mr. Saghir's surviving family and friends will be able to gain some measure of closure on this horrible chapter in their lives knowing that the three men responsible for his murder have all been held accountable," DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin said after the sentencing.
A jury deliberated for about four hours on Nov. 18, 2016, before finding that Russell fired the single shot that pierced Saghir's heart and both lungs, killing him just moments before he and his wife, Hanan Faraj, planned to celebrate her birthday.
Saghir and his brother were closing the shop at 235 W. Irving Park Road around 5:45 p.m. that January night when they were confronted by Russell and Kenneth Bardlett.
Bardlett grabbed Saghir's brother, Ahmad, and attempted to drag him back into the store while Russell kept a handgun pointed at Hussein Saghir.
When Saghir refused to re-enter the store, apparently to protect his 3-year-old nephew inside, Russell fired one shot from a black revolver over Saghir's head, the bullet lodging in the door frame.
Guerin said he reviewed the video that showed Saghir continuing to struggle outside the store when Russell fired the fatal shot "at pretty much point-blank range," just below Hussein's right armpit.
The pair and a third man, Tremayne Davis, who remained in the minivan during the robbery, immediately panicked and fled to Chicago.
"There was a lot of effort to set up this crime," Guerin said. "The getaway driver was even ready and waiting."
Bardlett, 24, of Bellwood, pleaded guilty, on June 12, to first-degree murder and was sentenced to 22 years in prison.
Davis was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2016 after pleading guilty to attempted armed robbery in the case. He already is out of prison and is expected to be discharged from parole on Feb. 19, 2021.