Illinois man gets life in prison for Ariz. killing

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX (AP) -- An Illinois man was sentenced Monday to life in prison after being convicted of murder in the 1988 death of the night manager of a pizza restaurant.

Steven Michael Humelhans, 43, of Roscoe, Ill., was given a mandatory life sentence with the possibility of parole after serving 25 years for killing 25-year-old Eric Rice.

Humelhans was first charged in 1996 but the case was dropped due to a lack of evidence. The investigation had grown cold until a witness provided new evidence that led to Humelhans being charged.

"Today's result is a testament to the dedicated detective work and persistence in prosecution that overcame the multiple challenges of this case," remarked Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.  "Although no sentence can replace the innocent life of Eric Rice, his senseless killing has been answered with justice that has been a long time in coming," he added.

He was convicted by a Maricopa County jury after a 15-day trial that ended in June.

On Monday, Humelhans continued to maintain his innocence.

"I have never taken another life. I would never take another life," he said, reaching for tissue to wipe his eyes.

Prosecutor Kristin Larish told Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Bruce Cohen that the actions of Humelhans left Rice without the opportunity to enjoy key moments in his life, such as attending the wedding of a child.

"Please remember that those are all things that Eric's family cannot experience with Eric," Larish said.

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