A 29-year-old Alton man pleaded guilty Monday to killing and dismembering his live-in girlfriend, and will spend at least 55 years in prison.
Patrick Chase pleaded guilty to the murder of Courtney Coats, who was missing for more than 20 days before her body was discovered near the Joe Page Bridge in East Hardin last fall.
Prosecutor Crystal Uhe said that Coats and Chase got into an argument on Nov. 23 that turned violent. Coats fell and struck her head on the dining room table, and then Chase strangled Coats to death.
At that point, Chase dragged her body into the bathroom and cut her throat to drain her blood, according to State's Attorney Tom Gibbons. Chase then used a hacksaw to dismember her body and put it in trash bags, which he threw into a river.
Coats was reported missing on Nov. 25, and her remains were found some time afterward under the Joe Page bridge. According to Coats' mother, Elizabeth Kovach, Chase continued to text her with questions and comments as though concerned for Coats' safety and whereabouts.
"The evil monster, Patrick Andrew Chase, not only has taken the life of my only child, he has stolen from me the most important and vital role I was ever blessed with: being Courtney's mother," Kovach said.
Kovach, who gave a victim impact statement at Chase's plea hearing, described her daughter as smart, witty and generous.
"My Courtney knew no strangers," Kovach said. "She was my life, my world, my everything, and I loved her dearly."
Chase pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, which carries a sentence of 20 to 60 years; and dismembering a human body, which carries six to 30 years in prison. Both sentences could have been extended up to 100 years on the murder charge and 60 years on dismemberment.
On Monday, Chase was sentenced to 45 years on the murder charge, of which he must serve 100 percent; and 20 years on the dismemberment charge, of which he must serve 50 percent. The sentences must be served consecutively, so the earliest he would be released is in 55 years. If he is released from prison, he must be under supervised release for at least three years.
Kovach said she hopes that never happens. "I have a lot of anger toward this monster for what he's done," she said.
As she stepped down from the stand, Kovach stopped and she and Chase briefly exchanged words. Uhe declined to elaborate on what was said. Chase was in tears as the baliffs led him out of the courtroom.
The case against co-defendant Brandon Chittum, 31, of Collinsville is still ongoing, Gibbons said. Prosecutors believe Chittum was present for the murder and most of the events surrounding it, and that he helped Chase dismember and hide Coats' body. Uhe said a plea has not been offered yet as they were waiting to finish with Chase's case.
"Courtney's death and dismemberment was a shocking reminder of the darkness and depravity that hides in the hearts of brutal and sadistic individuals," Gibbons said, praising the work of Uhe and other agencies and individuals who investigated Coats' disappearance and murder.
Uhe also praised the Alton Police Department, including Lt. Scott Golike and Sgt. Jerry Cooley, for their work on the investigation. "It is because of their dedication to this case that justice could be brought to Courtney Coats and her family today and we all hope that this plea today will give the family some level of peace," she said.