Juvenile killers sentenced to life allowed re-sentencing

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A Quad City mother is angry over the Illinois Supreme Court's ruling calling for the re-sentencing of inmates now in prison for life for crimes they committed when they were juveniles.

Dora Larson has been crying all day. Scott Darnell, the man who raped and murdered her little girl more than 30 years ago, is one of about 100 inmates who will now be re-sentenced, with the possibility of a shorter prison term.

"We fought for so long to keep Darnell behind bars, and now with the Supreme Court decision, he's going to be re-sentenced and we'll have to go through it all again," she said through tears, her hands trembling.

Vicky Larson was 10 years old when she was abducted in the small town of Andover, Illinois in 1979. Darnell, who was 15 at the time, had dug a grave to hide her body, before the crime.

Henry County States Attorney Terry Patton called the ruling horrible for the victim's families.

"When does the nightmare ever end for the victims? This crime was not a youthful indiscretion, an immature bad decision. He abducted this little girl, he raped her, he murdered her, he buried her in a hole that he had dug before the crime. This is not a crime of immaturity, this is a crime of pure evil. He needs to stay in prison for the rest of his life," Patton said.

Darnell is now a 50-year old prison inmate. Larson, who works tirelessly as a crime victim's advocate, says the thought of having to face him in court again is "torture".

"It's so painful, it's like going back to the original trial. Darnell, he's wired wrong. He wasn't a child. He's a murderer and he had a long criminal history," she said.

"But, I will do everything in my power to make sure he doesn't get out. It's the last thing I can do for Vicky," she said.

Prosecutors will be able to offer up aggravating factors at the upcoming re-sentencings to convince judges to hand down life sentences the second time around.

"Scott Darnell is not going to walk out a free man. There's no way that's going to happen. We are going to fight to do everything we have to do, so that when the judge exercises his discretion, the evidence clearly justifies a life sentence," Patton said.

Illinois is one of several states, including Iowa which has taken its cue from a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling which found life sentences in the case of juveniles in some cases "cruel and unusual" punishment.

1 Comment

  • Julie Sutton

    Why don’t we the people demand that killers who get reduced sentences be sent to live with whoever decided to reduce their sentences. I bet this travesty would be stopped in a hurry.

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