Dewaun Tate fatally stabbed 56-year-old Vatsala Thakkar during a robbery at a Hanover Park discount store that netted $130 – money DuPage County prosecutors said Tate spent on a shotgun he used hours later in a suburban shooting.
“This defendant takes the life of one person to get a weapon so he can endanger the lives of other people. It’s just outrageous,” Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Pawl said Friday during Tate’s sentencing.
Judge George Bakalis agreed, sentencing the Hanover Park man to 35 years in prison for the Nov. 20, 2008, killing at the Dollar Plus store where Thakkar – who had been a doctor in India before moving to the United States – worked as a clerk.
She was stabbed twice in her back as she tried to escape from the store during a holdup by Tate, then 17, and two other men, prosecutors said.
“This was a senseless murder,” Bakalis said as he imposed the prison term that will keep Tate behind bars until he is about 52 years old.
Tate told authorities he took some of the money to help buy a shotgun he fired later that night at a house in Glendale Heights because he was angry with residents there. No one was injured in the shooting.
Before his sentencing, Tate apologized for his actions – though in November he had tried in vain to withdraw his earlier guilty plea to first-degree murder for the stabbing.
“I truly apologize from the bottom of my heart,” he said. “My stupidity and my ignorance led me to come here.”
Defense attorney Brett Cummins argued Tate – who has mental problems and a low-functioning IQ of 69 – was manipulated into carrying out the robbery by 43-year-old Jerry Lockhart, who later was sentenced to 30 years in prison for his role in the holdup and stabbing. A third man, Seneca Barry, was sentenced to 17 years in prison for the robbery.
Thakkar’s oldest daughter fought back tears as she described how the murder – coming only a week after the birth of Thakkar’s first grandchild – devastated the close-knit family.
“It is just heart-breaking that she is not with us,” Tejal Sheth said. “My mother did not deserve this brutal death. Although nothing can bring my mother back, I want to be sure that another mother, grandmother and wife will not be murdered in the future by this defendant.”