URBANA – A Champaign man who fatally stabbed another man apologized to the victim's family and his own moments before being handed a 40-year prison sentence.
"Drugs have taken over my life. It's hard knowing I've taken someone's life," said Steven Evans Jr., 30, as his mother quietly cried.
A Champaign County jury convicted Evans in April of the first-degree murder of Silvester Hines, 27, of Champaign. Mr. Hines was stabbed at least 14 times on the early morning of Sept. 3 inside a car near the intersection of Castelton and Saratoga drives in Champaign.
Testimony at Evans' murder trial was that Mr. Hines had given Evans cocaine and was driving Evans to his parents' home in the 3300 block of York Drive to get the money to pay him for it when the two got in a dispute that ended in Mr. Hines' death.
After being stabbed, Mr. Hines, a father of two children, was able to get out of the car he had been driving and ran to a home in the 600 block of Castelton Drive.
He pounded on the door for help before collapsing on the front stoop, where he bled to death.
Evans took off in the car and was arrested some 36 hours later at his sister's home in Atwood.
Evans' lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Janie Miller-Jones, argued unsuccessfully that Evans believed he needed to use force to defend himself but that his belief was unreasonable.
The jury had the option of finding Evans guilty of the lesser second-degree murder but rejected that, Assistant State's Attorney Steve Ziegler noted.
Ziegler asked for the 40-year sentence while Miller-Jones argued for the minimum of 20 years.
Ziegler said Evans was on drug court probation for a theft conviction at the time the murder occurred and that he had walked away from opportunities to get help with his drug addictions.
"That shows his primary motivation in his life is simply doing what he wants to do," Ziegler said, noting Evans had other convictions for trespass to motor vehicle, burglary and driving under the influence before the theft conviction.
Miller-Jones said her client has not only been addicted to drugs half his life but also has "mental issues" and has attempted suicide.
"He is not a cold-blooded killer," she said, asking that he be placed in a prison where his mental problems can be addressed.
Evans told the judge he wished he "could go back and change everything" but knew that was impossible and instead has turned to God and has vowed to get help for his addictions.
Difanis said Evans "had in place everything he needed to deal with his problems," including his addiction to drugs and mental health issues.
The judge berated Evans' parents, who were aware of his problems, for dropping him off with money in his pocket at the Country Fair shopping center in Champaign the night before the killing.
"I don't know what they thought he was going to do: Shop at Hobby Lobby for crafts?" Difanis said, adding that Evans eventually ended up at the house on Hedge Road where he met Mr. Hines.
"Because it wasn't premeditated, it wasn't any less of a murder. It doesn't make Mr. Hines any less dead. It doesn't make (Hines') family feel any better," the judge said.
Evans was given credit for 268 days already served in the jail.
He will have to serve 100 percent of his sentence.