Peoria man sentenced to 60 years for 2013 shooting death

By WEEK Producer

May 2, 2014 Updated May 2, 2014 at 11:14 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. – A Peoria man will spend 60 years in prison after fatally shooting a man last year.

In September, 25-year-old Cortez Williams shot and killed Melvin Sanders Junior outside a house on Stanley Street in Peoria.

A jury found Williams guilty of the murder in April.

Today, Judge Kevin Lyons sentenced him to 60 years in prison.

But Williams still claims it was self defense.

Williams said he saw the victim reach into his jacket, possibly to pull a weapon.

At the sentencing, the judge gave Williams a chance to speak.

Williams apologized to the family of the victim but said he still thinks he's not guilty of first degree murder.

Judge Kevin Lyons fired back saying, "The "victim" has a name and it's Melvin Sanders. You murdered him."

Lyons went on to call Williams defiant, cocky, and self absorbed.

He says the ruling is necessary to protect the people from Williams.

Sanders's family were at the hearing Friday morning.

They said they were home when Sanders was shot and killed last fall.

Some said Williams was stalking Sanders for several weeks before the shooting.

They were shocked when the judge gave Williams 60 years instead of life behind bars.

"It hurts knowing that one day he could get out. We don't know," said Sanders's cousin, Malinda Smith. "God could have granted him longevity. He could live to be 101, and then he still has 20 good years out. That is not fair because Melvin doesn't have any time. His time has expired."

Williams can appeal the sentence within 30 days.

The Sanders family is also grieving the murder of two other family members in an unsolved case.

Days before the murder of Melvin Sanders, two relatives were shot and killed in an alleged home invasion.

KeiAmber Beard and James Irby were the victims.

No arrests have been made in this case and police continue to investigate.

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