Life sentence for Terry Abbas in rape/killing of Chyenne Kircher - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Life sentence for Terry Abbas in rape/killing of Chyenne Kircher

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Terry Abbas Terry Abbas

An East Dubuque, Ill., man accused of raping and killing his step-daughter and burying her body in the family's backyard was sentenced Friday to life in prison without chance of parole.

Terry Abbas, 41, pleaded guilty in October to sexually abusing and strangling 14-year-old Chyenne Kircher.

Kircher went missing in Oct. 2011. East Dubuque police declared her a runaway, citing a runaway note penned in Kircher's handwriting, a test determined, in which she said, "Don't look for me. I don't want to be found." In early 2013, however, a reinvigorated investigation led officials to Abbas, whom they arrested in September.

At the Jo Daviess County, Ill. courthouse Friday afternoon, some 30 people gathered to see circuit judge William Kelly sentence Abbas. Kircher's mother and grandmother were present among other family members and supporters, all of whom wore purple, Chyenne's favorite color.

Abbas opted to represent himself yet again, as he has done since his arrest in September. Kelly reminded the defendant he has a right to an attorney, but Abbas declined.

Judge Kelly heard from East Dubuque school superintendent Greg Herbst, who teared up while describing the impact of Kircher's murder, both personally and on a community-wide level.

"She's one of my kids," Herbst said, emotionally.

He described Kircher's love of school and her disheveled, playful look.

"Chyenne had her innocence stolen, but along with that, an entire elementary school had their innocence stolen," Herbst said, explaining that Abbas' young son was in elementary school at the time of Kircher's disappearance. Until Abbas' arrest nearly two years after Kircher went missing, Abbas had chaperoned school field trips and been active in his son's school life.

"Chyenne was assaulted, but the security inherent in a small town was also assaulted," he said.

The court also heard from an FBI special agent and an investigator with the Jo Daviess County Sheriff's Office, both of whom described an interview with Abbas following the man's arrest, in which he admitted to strangling and burying Kircher in the wooded area behind the East Dubuque home they shared with Kircher's mother and older brother and Abbas' son.

The FBI agent, Wayne Jackowski, said Abbas admitted he'd had sex with the girl, then strangled her with his hands.

The investigator, Casey Folks, said Abbas showed officials where he buried Kircher, in a grave he'd dug in the woods behind his home the day before strangling Chyenne.

Kircher's older brother Colorado Kircher wrote a victim impact statement, which prosecuting attorney John Hay read. Kircher's mother Lori Lyons then read her victim impact statement for the court.

"I had to endure the pain of writing an obituary for my own daughter," Lyons said, through tears. "Life isn't fair...Good people have bad things happen to them.

Abbas, then, also struggled through tears as he described remorse for what he had done in his statement to the court. Lyons left the courtroom before Abbas started reading. The prosecuting attorney said afterward he didn't believe Abbas' tears were for Kircher, but for Abbas' own situation.

Abbas told investigators he helped Kircher write a runaway note a month before killing her, dug her grave in the woods behind their home a day before killing her, and had sex with the 14-year-old right before killing her.

The judge said the crime "rises to a level of evil and depravity that's hard to even imagine," and sentenced Abbas to the maximum penalty, he said, to make an example of him and because of the "cold and calculated nature" of the murder.

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