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Peoria man sentenced to life in prison for 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 will spend the rest of his life in prison for the 2021 murder of 50-year-old Mona Ellison.

A Peoria County jury took just 40 minutes in June to convict her ex-boyfriend, Christopher J. Sanders, 50.

Ellison was brutally beaten and choked. Her body was found in a wooded area near East Peoria Community High School.

Her nose and cheek were fractured, and nearly all of her ribs were broken. Her cheek was cut through to her teeth. Sanders tried to stitch the wound back together with a needle and thread, but ultimately left them in the wound, said prosecutors.

A forensic pathologist said Ellison was alive throughout the beating. She was fatally strangled.

Peoria County Assistant State's Attorney Brian FitzSimmons said Sanders didn't mean to just hurt Ellison, but inflict pain "in a purposeful way."

Sanders refused to leave his cell for the sentencing. Chief judge Katherine Gorman called him a coward and said she couldn't find anything redeeming about him as she handed down her sentence.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.