Man resentenced for first-degree murder in 20-year-old Williamson Co. case

A convicted killer in Southern Illinois is resentenced for a murder more than 20 years ago
Published: Nov. 4, 2022 at 5:15 PM CDT
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WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Ill. (KFVS) - A man has been resentenced for first-degree murder in a 20-year-old case.

According to a release from the Williamson County State’s Attorney’s Office, Michael Hearn was resentenced to 33 years in prison for the 2001 murder of 15-year-old Ashleigh Sprague.

During the resentencing, Sprague’s mother, Traci Cottanaro, talked about her young daughter and shared with the court the devastation of losing her.

“Ashleigh loved to dance and sing...she was a loyal friend and a nurturer to all,” she said.

He was originally sentenced to life in prison in 2002 when he was 17 years old.

According to the state’s attorney’s office, Hearn had to be resentenced “due to a change in the law which requires special consideration and findings when sentencing juvenile offenders due to their age and immaturity.”

Hearn has spent more than 20 years in prison. Once this new 33-year sentence is finished, he will have to serve a 5-year term for his attempted escape from Williamson County Jail in 2002, and then a 3-year mandatory supervised release.

According to the release, Hearn and Sprague met on June 8, 2001 when he offered her and her friends a ride.

Hearn dropped the two friends off, but that was the last time Sprague was seen alive.

They say Sprague was missing for 12 days when Hearn admitted to his pastor that he had killed her and where the body could be found.

At the original trial, they say Hearn’s testimony was challenged by autopsy findings.

According to the release, one officer testified that it was the worst crime scene he had ever seen, and that it was something he would remember forever because he had a little girl.