New sentence for Blair Holt’s killer: 75 years instead of 100

SHARE New sentence for Blair Holt’s killer: 75 years instead of 100
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Chicago Police Cmdr. Ronald Holt and Fire Department Battalion Chief Annette Nance Holt, talk to reporters in December after a hearing for Michael Pace, who had sought to reduce his 100-year prison
sentence for the 2007 murder of the Holt’s 16-year-old son, Blair. | Andy Grimm/Sun-TImes

Michael Pace knew what was coming.

Just weeks after he wept in court, offering to give his own life to make amends, Blair Holt’s killer turned a dry face away from the judge, his expression settling somewhere between disgust and resignation.

“I’ve done the defendant no favors, nor does he deserve any,” Cook County Judge Matthew Coghlan said Tuesday, shortly after handing Pace 75 years in prison.

It was 25 years fewer than the term a different judge had given Pace in 2009 for the same crimes, but it still means he’ll be 85 years old before he’s released.

“The defendant’s actions were evil. They were cold. They were calculated. They were premeditated,” Coghlan said.

Holt’s father, Chicago Police Cmdr. Ronald Holt, stood in the busy lobby of the Leighton Criminal Court Building and said having to go through a second sentencing, “pours salt in a wound that never heals.”

On May 10, 2007 on the South Side, Pace, then 16, stepped onto a CTA bus crowded with high school students and opened fire. Riders ducked for cover. Holt, an honor student at Julian High School, lay on top of a classmate to try to protect her. He was struck in the abdomen. The friend, Tiara Reed, was shot in the foot but survived. Cook County prosecutors say Pace had been aiming for a rival gang member. In 2009, Pace pleaded guilty in the case and was handed the 100-year term.

Two years ago, an appeals court ordered a new sentencing hearing for Pace, based on allegations of bias shown in the lengthy monologue Judge Nicholas Ford gave before handing down the sentence.

For a brief time Tuesday, it looked as though Coghlan might show more leniency than he eventually did. He noted that since the original sentencing, the law has changed in Illinois, requiring judges to see juvenile offenders differently — to consider their immaturity and how, among other things, they might be “vulnerable to negative influences.”

Coghlan acknowledged that Pace hadn’t had an ideal childhood.

But then he turned to how Pace had spent the last 10 years in prison. Had he tried to atone for his crime? No, Coghlan said. Had he sought to counsel other youth who might be heading for a life of crime? No, Coghlan repeated.

“What I have here is a defendant who has 47 tickets for disciplinary problems,” while behind bars, Coghlan said.

And as his fate became clear, Pace twisted his body away from the judge. The judge was still talking when Pace rose abruptly from his chair, turning his body once again — toward the exit door and the holding cell beyond.

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