Denzel Pittman only shook his head slightly when a Cook County judge on Monday found him guilty of murder in the stabbing deaths of his teen girlfriend, her mother and her 11-year-old sister.
Prosecutors had detailed how Pittman stabbed 17-year-old Jade Hannah, her 11-year-old sister, Joi Cochran, and their 43-year-old mother, Stacy Cochran-Hill, on Nov. 29, 2010 in the family’s home in the 11100 block of South Bell Avenue.
On Monday, Judge Timothy Joyce found Pittman, now 22, guilty of “senselessly [murdering] these three defenseless women” following a bench trial.
“I feel good. Justice has been served,” said Cochran-Hill’s mother, Sharon Ramey. “I never want him to touch that concrete at all. He took something away from us. He took my babies.”
Denzel Pittman’s Facebook page once included this picture of him with his former girlfriend Jade Hannah, whom he was convicted of killing.
Prosecutors said Pittman flew into the murderous rage after arguing with Jade about their relationship earlier that evening.
“Denzel Pittman is a person who was jealous and obsessive,” Assistant State’s Attorney Mercedes Luque-Rosales said during closing arguments. “On Nov. 29, 2010, the fruit of his jealously came to life. The fruit of his obsession came to life.”
After the killings, Pittman told neighbors to call 911 while he chased after the killer, prosecutors said. But Pittman returned to the apartment a short time later to get his jacket and instead found a phone and called his mother to pick him up from a nearby CVS pharmacy, prosecutors said.
Pittman was arrested a short time later and told police he “defended himself,” prosecutors said.
Pittman’s lawyer, Tod Urban, argued that the prosecutors’ case was circumstantial and nobody saw Pittman stab the women.
Last week, former Cook County jail inmate Thomas Johnson testified that while the two shared a cell, Pittman said he didn’t feel remorse about killing Jade after confronting her about dining with another suitor at the Rock’n’ Roll McDonald’s.
“I loved her to death, and now she knows,” Pittman allegedly boasted during his jailhouse chats with Johnson.
Urban called Johnson a “jailhouse snitch” and “professional liar” in an attempt to discredit his testimony. The defense did not call any witnesses.
In making his decision, Joyce called Johnson’s testimony “unnecessary” and noted he had motive to try to reduce his own charges.
Joyce specifically noted that Pittman went back to get his coat and that “adrenaline might mask whatever effect the cold would have on us.”
He called going back to get the coat “a circumstance as compelling and telling as any other.”
Joyce also noted that calling his mother for a ride home is “hardly indicative of an effort to go after the guy.”
Nearly two dozen friends and relatives of the slain family gathered in the courtroom to hear Joyce’s verdict.
“I personally don’t feel the satisfaction,” said Robert Bagby, a friend of Cochran-Hill. “The loss is still there. She was one of the sweetest people.”
Relative Augustus McGill noted it took “four years, four months and 15 days, but justice prevailed.”
Pittman will be back in court April 16 for post-trial motions.
Contributing: Rummana Hussain