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Peoria man faces potential life sentence for 'brutal' 2021 murder of ex-girlfriend

A gavel rests on a judge's bench in a blurry courtroom. The text "WCBU Courts" sits on top of that photo.

A Peoria man could spend the rest of his life in prison for the 2021 murder of his ex-girlfriend.

It took a Peoria County jury less than 40 minutes to find Christopher J. Sanders, 45, guilty for the murder of 50-year-old Mona Ellison on Wednesday.

A forensic pathologist testified at trial that Ellison was covered nearly head to toe in blunt-force injuries, including a broken nose and a left cheek cut through to her mouth. She also had several broken ribs, punctured lungs, other internal injuries, and defensive wounds from fighting off her attacker. The pathologist said she was alive throughout this, but ultimately died from strangulation.

Sanders allegedly wrapped Ellison's body in a blanket and plastic and took it across the Illinois River into Tazewell County. Ellison's body was found in a wooded area near East Peoria Community High School.

Peoria County State's Attorney Jodi Hoos said the last moments of Ellison's life are "nearly unspeakable." The life sentence is on the table because the jury found the murder was accompanied by "exceptionally brutal or heinous behavior."

Sentencing is set for Aug. 17, 2023.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.