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11-29-2005, 11:08 AM #1
Derek Pelto gets life in prison for brutal hammer slaying of girlfriend
Tears flow as killer gets life
Neither family is happy in case of young mom's hammer slaying
Sarah Patten's 5-year-old daughter, Payton, asks for her mother almost every day. Each time, the child is told Patten is in heaven.
Sometimes, Payton says she wants to die, too, "so I can see my mommy in heaven."
But more often, the child's step-grandmother, Cheryl Patten, said in court Monday, Payton gets balloons and releases them into the sky -- floating gifts she hopes will reach her mother.
One day, Payton may learn the story of her mother's brutal death. And she'll know that the man a jury found responsible for it will spend the rest of his life in prison.
After a day of emotional testimony that brought two families on opposite sides of a courtroom to tears, Orange Circuit Judge Lisa T. Munyon sentenced Derek Pelto to life in prison for killing his girlfriend -- Payton's mother -- by stabbing and then striking her repeatedly with a hammer in his apartment March 29, 2003.
Handcuffed and escorted from the courtroom Monday, Pelto turned to his family and said: "Don't worry about me. I love you guys. I'll be fine."