Convicted murderer Anthony Harrison sat with a flat, unchanging expression Friday as he received a 40-year prison sentence for killing his wife and hiding her body in the basement.
McHenry County Judge James Cowlin found Harrison, 33, guilty of stabbing 30-year-old Laura Harrison in 2016 at their McHenry home. The verdict was announced in September, after a bench trial that began Aug. 13.
Laura Harrison’s family filled the courtroom Friday as, one by one, they they took turns describing her as a “sweet, loving, compassionate” person with a shy, but contagious laugh. Seven relatives read their statements aloud to the judge, and asked Cowlin to issue the maximum prison sentence.
Anthony Harrison’s attorneys previously asked the judge to consider second-degree murder as an alternate verdict to first-degree murder. Assistant Public Defender Grant Tucker recommended a 20-year prison sentence at a facility that could address Anthony Harrison’s mental illnesses, including depression. Anthony Harrison was raised in foster care, and endured physical and sexual abuse throughout his childhood, Tucker said.
“I believe that every human being has the capacity to change and mental health treatment has the capacity to change people,” Tucker said.
Laura Harrison came from a large family and belonged to one of two sets of triplets. Her father, Robert Yunger, was grief-stricken as he struggled to read his letter to the judge.
“This is a wound for each of us that time will never heal,” he said. “A void so deep our hearts will never recover.”
Prosecutors have said Anthony Harrison stabbed Laura Harrison multiple times sometime between 6 and 10 p.m. June 4, 2016. Laura Harrison had planned on leaving her husband, and called McHenry police only hours before her death to ask about having him removed from their home. Police told told her it likely would take a physical act of violence for them to order him off the property.
After the attack, Anthony Harrison buried his wife’s body under a pile of firewood, prosecutors said. He waited two days before calling the police and reporting that he killed his wife and had tried to take his own life. In those two days, Anthony Harrison bought cleaning supplies and fire-starters and dug a hole in the yard, prosecutors said.
In addition to telling the 911 dispatcher that he killed his wife, Anthony Harrison also wrote the admission in a letter intercepted by jail personnel, and used a Sharpie marker to write “I did this” on the wall in the basement where her body was found, prosecutors said.
“... He turned a marital home into a complete and utter house of horrors,” Assistant State’s Attorney Robert Zalud said.
At the time of Laura Harrison’s death, Anthony Harrison was faced with a misdemeanor domestic battery charge stemming from a 2015 altercation.
When it came time for Anthony Harrison to speak Friday, he pulled a folded piece of paper out of his orange jail uniform, but didn’t read from it.
Instead, he spoke off the cuff about what he called “unspeakable and unthinkable” acts that took place the night Laura Harrison died.
“To say that this is a traumatizing situation is an understatement,” he said. “Saying this is a nightmare is an understatement.”
Harrison went on to talk about attempting suicide after the murder, noting that ultimately, he didn’t feel he deserved to “die or suffer.”
One of Laura’s sisters, Abigail Houillon said she told Anthony Harrison she didn’t want him to suffer, rather she wanted him to understand the amount of grief his actions caused.
“I don’t care to wish you torment,” Houillon said. “I just want you to understand our pain. ... And although that is my wish, I don’t think you loved Laura enough to truly feel her absence.”