I've watched a lot of forensic files and other crime shows and being the fifth largest state (population wise) you'll find cases that happened in Illinois. From what I know, there was no such thing in the 80s and 90s as life sentences or even provisional life sentences (15-to-life or 20-to-life). You usually got "year" sentences that if you were in your early 20s, you had a good shot of eventual release. The earliest crime where someone was given LWOP (in fact that's the only type of life sentence in Illinois) was the Winger/Harrington thing, which was in 2002. Had the law recently been changed? I know that the governor at the time (George Ryan) wanted to end the death penalty, and maybe LWOP became a sort of substitute DP. I think Illinois now has a system similar to Washington (though Washington still has the DP) where a garden variety premeditated crime will get you decades in prison but with a good shot of release and if it has aggravating factors, then that's where you get LWOP.