EDWARDSVILLE, Illinois – A judge sentenced a woman to 45 years in prison Friday in the torture slaying of a pregnant, developmentally impaired mother, saying the beatings, scalds and gunshot wounds she suffered were beyond anything anyone should have to endure.
Madison County Circuit Judge Charles Romani Jr. was not swayed by convict Michelle Riley's expressions of remorse for the January 2008 death of 29-year-old Dorothy Dixon. What Riley and her cohorts inflicted on Dixon, who had been five or six months pregnant when she died, "was brutal and heinous to say the least," he said.
Riley, 37, told the court, "I'm sorry that I can't take it back."
In exchange for Riley's guilty plea last October to a first-degree murder charge, prosecutors agreed to not push for more than 45 years behind bars. Riley's public defender, Jon Delaney, had argued that other defendants contributed to Dixon's demise and pressed for 30 years — the lowest possible sentence under the deal.
Riley, who has three previous felony drug convictions, must serve all of the sentence except for the 700 days Romani credited her for the time she has already spent in jail.
Investigators have said Dixon was abused for weeks, at times beaten with a plunger handle, burned with a hot glue gun and used for target practice with a BB pistol. On Friday, pathologist Raj Nanduri testified that Dixon's body revealed she had been scalded from head to toe with boiling water and had BB wounds "all over the body," some infected and others in varying stages of healing.
Dixon also had a "branding-type" of injury on at least one arm, two of her front teeth were missing and presumedly knocked out, and she had cuts on her scalp that "were very deep, all the way to the bone."
Nanduri said Dixon died of an accumulation of injuries over time.
"In short, her body just quit because of all the beatings, burnings and pellet wounds?" Mike Stewart, a prosecutor, asked the pathologist, who replied, "Yes."
Dixon had been five or six months pregnant with a baby boy, Nanduri said.
Riley was "pretty much considered to be the ringleader," directing other housemates to take part in the abuse, Tierney testified.
Four other defendants, including three teenagers, await trial on first-degree murder charges. Another defendant, Riley's now-14-year-old son, has been sentenced as a juvenile to probation.
Tierney said Riley pocketed Dixon's monthly government checks. Authorities have said Dixon ate what she could forage from the refrigerator upstairs. Riley "basically treated Miss Dixon as a slave in the household," Tierney testified.