GALENA, Ill. — An East Dubuque man was sentenced today to life in prison for the premeditated murder and sexual assault of his teen-aged stepdaughter.
Police say Terry Abbas, 41, raped and killed Chyenne Kircher, then 14, of East Dubuque, in 2011. Abbas pleaded guilty to six criminal charges in October, including three counts of first-degree murder, two counts of sexual assault and the intentional concealment of homicidal death.
Kircher, who had been missing since October 2011, was found buried behind her home Sept. 19, a day after Abbas was first arrested and charged. Abbas admitted raping and strangling Kircher behind the family’s home before burying her in an already dug grave.
“Her last moments on Earth involved him sexually abusing her and then kneeling over her as he strangled her,” State’s Attorney John Hay told the court. “Unfortunately, your honor, he was likely the last thing she saw.”
Witnesses called during sentencing Friday in Jo Daviess County District Court described how Abbas planned the crime weeks in advance, and concocted an elaborate scheme to allay suspicion.
When Kircher first disappeared, authorities were led to believe she had run away from home, and did not wish to be found. A note found in a vehicle seemed to support that theory.
But authorities later learned the note was a misdirection, an unused prop in a planned prank that was never carried out. Kircher wrote the note, with Abbas’ help, a month before she was killed, believing it would later be used as a joke to alarm her other family members.
“He asked her to put in there, ‘Don’t look for me. I don’t want to be found,’” FBI Special Agent Wayne Jackowski said.
Hay explained how Abbas dug a grave behind the home he had shared with Kircher, her mother, and her brothers, the day before her death. Abbas took multiple cigarette breaks, and even left to check on his son, Hay said, but always returned to dig.
“With each shovelful, this recurring thought kept popping into (Abbas’) head,” Hay said. “‘I’m going to kill her. I’m going to kill her.’”
Kircher’s mother, Lori Lyons, lamented her family’s loss during a tearful victim impact statement. She described her daughter as bubbly and energetic; a “one-of-a-kind, uniquely minded ray of light.”
Abbas’ actions robbed Kircher of growing up, getting married or having children of her own, Lyons said, and left Kircher’s brothers without their beloved sister.
Lyons recalled speaking with a coroner after Kircher’s body was discovered.
“All hope was lost in a 10-minute phone call,” she said. “My family had lost a precious gem to which there is no equal.”
Greg Herbst, superintendent of the East Dubuque Community School District, said the loss of Kircher was devastating to the district, to the community and to him, personally.
“She’s not my daughter, but she’s one of my kids,” he said, voice cracking with emotion. “She was one of my kids.”
The police investigation at Abbas’ property occurred directly across the street from East Dubuque Elementary School. Herbst said the experience robbed the school’s students of their innocence.
“I had more than 400 elementary school students who were confused, unsure, afraid,” he said.
Abbas has refused legal representation since his arrest, and did so again Friday. He remained composed, but quietly emotional, throughout the proceedings, occasionally wiping his face with tissues.
When given an opportunity to address the court, Abbas tearfully apologized for his actions, saying he was “truly, extremely sorry.”
“Every night I lay down I wish more than anything that I could change the situation, go back in time and put me in her place,” he said.
Circuit Court Judge William Kelly agreed with the state’s suggestion to enhance the sentence to natural life without possibility of parole. Kelly also sentenced Abbas to two consecutive seven-year terms for the sexual assault charges and a five-year concurrent term for concealing a homicidal death.
“This crime rises to a level of evil and depravity that is hard to even imagine,” Kelly said.
After the hearing, Chuck Jones, Kircher’s great uncle, said he had to ask Hay to confirm Abbas would never again be a free man.
“I wanted to make sure that was without the chance of parole, because he doesn’t deserve the chance of parole,” Jones said. “He took Chyenne’s life, and all he can get is life imprisonment for it. It’s not going to bring her back, and it’s going to be hard to continue day-to-day without having her here to see her grow up, to see her have a family of her home, or whatever she wanted to do in life. It’s going to be rough.
GALENA, Ill. — An East Dubuque man was sentenced today to life in prison for killing his stepdaughter.
Terry Abbas, 41, was sentenced today in Jo Daviess County Circuit Court. He pleaded guilty in October to raping and killing his stepdaughter, Chyenne Kircher, 14, of East Dubuque, in 2011. Abbas pleaded guilty to six criminal charges, including three counts of first-degree murder.
Abbas was sentenced to natural life in prison, the maximum for charges of sexual abuse and concealment of a homicidal death, with no parole.
Abbas represented himself at the sentencing hearing.
Kircher's mother, Lori Lyons, read a victim impact statement at the hearing.
"All hope was lost in a 10-minute phone call," Lyons said, recalling a call from the coroner after Kircher's body was found.
Roughly 20 people attended Abbas' sentencing, many of them wearing T-shirts that read "Justice for Chyenne."
Greg Herbst, superintendent of East Dubuque schools, said Kircher was exuberant and loved at school.
"She's not my daughter, but she's one of my kids," Herbst said.
State's Attorney John Hay testified that Abbas "will always be a danger to the public." The state was seeking a life sentence without parole for Abbas.
"(Abbas) had evil in his heart" throughout the commission of the crime, Hay said.
Police say Abbas raped and murdered Kircher on Oct. 13, 2011, and buried her body behind the home he shared with Kircher, her brother and her mother. He then deceived investigators by reporting the troubled teenager as a runaway, a lie authorities say he maintained until his arrest.