The Motan family moved from Jerusalem to operate a Washington Park convenience store to live their dream of raising their families in the U.S.
That dream ended for the Palestinian family on June 1, 2007, when Harold J. Ivy walked into the food mart on Caseyville Avenue and fired a shot that struck Muhammad Motan in the leg. Ivy and another man, both wearing black with ski masks covering their faces, continued into the store as Muhammad Motan ran into the parking lot.
His brother, Loai Motan, was behind the counter when the masked gunmen arrived. The two men exchanged gunfire. Ivy was struck in the genitals. Loai Motan, a husband to a pregnant wife and father to two children, was fatally shot in the chest. He was 28.
Muhammad Motan heard the gunshots came back into the store and found his brother bleeding from the chest.
"His worst nightmare came true. His brother was dying on the floor," said prosecutor Deb Phillips, who asked Tuesday for Ivy to be sentenced to 60 years for Motan's murder. "Good and evil in this case are clearly defined."
Ivy and his unknown accomplice ran from the store, a few dollars in the white pillowcase they had hoped to fill with cash. Ivy went for treatment for his gunshot wounds. It didn't take police long track down Ivy, who lived less than a block from the food mart.
Ivy is Tamiko Riley's only child.
Riley noted he didn't get into real trouble around the neighborhood, just normal "kid stuff."
When he was born, Riley said he "didn't weigh more than a bag of sugar."
Twenty one years later on the day he walked into that store, Ivy was 6-feet, 1-inch tall and weighed 290 pounds. Riley called him "a big giant, gentle though."
People from the neighborhood wrote letters for Ivy, Riley said, urging the judge to be lenient.
"I love him," she told the judge. "He's my son."
Ivy, 28, cried as his mother testified during his sentencing hearing. He wiped them away with the collar of his jail jumpsuit.
Lloyd Cueto Jr., his defense attorney, argued Ivy was capable of rehabilitation. Ivy went to church, got his general equivalency degree and volunteered to talk to youths who came to the St. Clair County Jail, where he has been housed since June 2007.
"It was a robbery gone wrong," Cueto said, adding Ivy never meant to kill anybody, but only fired when he was surprised by Muhammad Motan, then fired upon by Loai Motan.
Cueto recommended a 20-year prison sentence for Ivy to St. Clair County Judge Zina Cruse.
But the Motan's family continues to suffer, Phillips argued.
Loai Motan's wife and children, including the little girl who was born after her father was shot, returned to Jerusalem. The mother of Muhammad and Loai Motan is torn with grief at the loss of her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. Muhammad Motan continues to support his brother's family, even as he tried to heal his body from the gunshot wounds.
"He took something precious. He took something priceless. He took something that did not belong to him," Phillips said.
Ivy stood to make a statement. Tears came down his cheeks as he apologized to the Motan family.
"I'm sorry for the pain I have caused you," he said, looking at Muhammad Motan who sat in the courtroom. "Every day I wish I could take it back."
Cruse sat without speaking after the lawyers sat at their tables. Their arguments completed. She then leveled her look on Ivy.
"How dare you? How dare you? How dare you have even had the thought when you walked into that store that day?" Cruse said. "How dare you put your mother in that position ... ? How dare you put Muhammad and his family in that position? How dare you put me in this position?"
Cruse noted that Ivy will have influence in the Department of Corrections and she urged him to use it well. Cruse then sentenced Ivy to 37 years in prison, with credit for the seven years in the county jail.
Ivy will be 58 years old before he is eligible for release.
Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2570.