Illinois police say Michelle Riley and her cohorts subjected Dorothy Dixon, a mentally disabled woman who was five months pregnant, to unspeakable horrors including beatings, burnings and using her for target practice, while keeping her as a human slave and pocketing her disability checks until she died.
Photo: Murder victim Dorothy Dixon.
Riley was sentenced Friday to 45 years in prison, which was the maximum allowed in a deal reached between defense and prosecutors. Riley's attorney argued for a 30-year sentence, saying she did not act alone.
Investigators said that Riley and five others, including her 14-year-old son, abused the 29-year-old for weeks, at times beating her with a plunger handle, burning her with a hot glue gun and using her for target practice with a BB pistol.
Photo: Convicted torturer Michelle Riley.
Evidence suggested that Dixon's body had been scalded from head to toe with boiling water and was riddled with wounds from a BB gun, some infected and others in varying stages of healing.
When police found Dixon's body on Jan. 31, 2008 in the basement of a house in Alton, she was clad only in a sweater and covered with towels. Alton is about 90 miles south from Springfield, the capital.
Police said she had a "branding-type" injury on at least one arm, teeth missing, presumably knocked out, and had cuts on her scalp that were very deep, all the way to the bone.
Jennifer Tierney, an Alton police detective in said Riley, 37, was "the ringleader," who pocketed Dixon's monthly government checks and "basically treated (Dixon) as a slave."
"I'm sorry that I can't take it back," Riley told the court.
Riley pleaded guilty in October to first-degree murder. Four other defendants, including three teenagers, await trial also on first-degree murder charges. Riley's now-14-year-old son, who police say was also involved, has been sentenced as a juvenile to probation.
Dixon's 1-year-old boy was taken into state custody after his mother's death. He weighed just 15 pounds, said police.