‘It’s hard to mourn properly when anger is all I feel’: Family members give victim impact statements as Blackledge receives two 20-year sentences

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QUINCY — Ten members of Christine “Tina” Schmitt’s family gave victim impact statements Thursday afternoon during the sentencing hearing for Karen Blackledge in Adams County Circuit Court.

They hope to get one more chance to do it again.

Blackledge pled guilty April 1 to one count of home invasion and one count of aggravated sexual assault, both Class X felonies. A plea arrangement calls for Blackledge to receive 40 years in prison with two 20-year terms served consecutively in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Thursday’s formal sentencing took place in front of Judge Amy Lannerd.

Blackledge, 33, acknowledged in court that she illegally entered a home on Quincy’s North Bottom Road on Nov. 9. While in the home, she used a weapon to penetrate Schmitt, who died on Dec. 12. 

Blackledge and Bradley S. Yohn, 35, were arrested the next day in Springfield in connection with the incident. Yohn allegedly used force or threatened to used force to carjack a vehicle and kidnap Schmitt, then allegedly forced himself into the woman’s home and assaulted her. He also allegedly had a knife.

Yohn remains lodged in the Adams County Jail. A hearing about the ineffectiveness of counsel for Yohn — and the possibility of representing himself — is scheduled for Wednesday, May 11.

Chip Lohman, one of Schmitt’s four children, said after Thursday’s sentencing it was good to see justice done.

“Now we move on to one more,” he said. “One more case, and then the healing starts.”

Assistant state’s attorney Josh Jones read victim impact statements from three of Schmitt’s grandchildren. 

Ace DeGonia said the last time he saw his grandmother was a couple of weeks after the assault. 

“I could tell deep down my grandmother was a broken woman and didn’t know what to think,” he said in his letter. “She was embarrassed at herself for letting (Yohn and Blackledge) do the things that they did. … She was clearly broken from all the stress.”

Zavier Terrell said it hurts to go to work or even have a day off, because he would spend most of his days off or time after completing his shifts with his grandmother. Dalton Hiland said he keeps the incident from his children because “they’re too young to know or be exposed to such an inhumane act.”

Granddaughter Carley Hiland was one of seven people who made statements in the courtroom. She says she doesn’t like leaving her home, especially at night. 

“On the hard days, I have to work from home,” she said. “I can cry at my desk. On days I’m not working, all I want to do is lay on my couch. My 3-year-old son, I can’t explain to him. He doesn’t understand why Mommy doesn’t want to leave the house anymore or go on walks. We can’t do that anymore.

“It’s hard to mourn properly when anger is all I feel.”

Chip Lohman said his mom won’t be there when his daughters graduate from medical school or walk down the wedding aisle. His wife, Deanna Lohman, said she’s never before felt the hate she’s felt since Nov. 9.

“Tina was a survivor, and she will never be your victim ever,” Deanna said. “I can’t understand what was in your brain that night. We will continue to love each other. We will talk about her. We will enjoy the stories that we heard from her. We will tell them to our children and our grandchildren. But we will never talk about you. Your name will never cross my lips again.

“Today, we are done with you. You won’t be able to hurt anyone else, and we are grateful for that.”

Derek Lohman, Schmitt’s other son, said the prison term for Blackledge didn’t feel like justice.

“We’re getting all these reminders right now for Mother’s Day. Want to know how that feels?” he said as he looked at Blackledge. “You’re reminded she’s no longer here because of your actions. That’s the way it feels. It just makes you angry in every piece of your body, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Timothy Schmitt, who married Tina four years ago but knew her for nearly four decades, said he hoped Blackledge repents for her sins and asks God for forgiveness.

Ilsa Terrell, Tina’s daughter, recalled the night when she received a phone call to learn about the assault.

“Here we are, three days before Mother’s Day,” she said. “Normally I would be handing her flowers and gifts, hugging her, telling her I love her. Because of your selfish evil acts, I will be taking flowers to a grave and crying.”

Heidi Young, Tina’s oldest daughter, asked Blackledge why she hurt her mother.

“She was handing you everything,” Young said. “She was telling you where things were. She was calm and cooperative through this horrible ordeal. She told us that you would just walk by and hit her and kick her for no reason. She also told us that you wanted Mr. Yohn to kill her.  My mom constantly called you evil. 

“Another thing for me that is so hard to understand is how you, as a woman, could stand there and watch and encourage the sexual assault of another woman — an older woman, at that. That is just disgusting to me. Why didn’t you stop this? Did you ever stop and think this is not right. Do you even have a conscience?”

Blackledge looked straight ahead for most of the hearing, shielding her face with her left hand as video and still cameras recorded her. She removed her glasses at one point and wiped tears from her face.

Public defender Chris Pratt gave a statement of allocution for Blackledge, explaining she would have “trouble getting words out.” He said she apologized for her actions and was “ashamed.”

Blackledge must serve 85 percent of the sexual assault sentence and 50 percent of the home invasion sentence before she would be eligible for parole. She received credit for 172 days already served in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

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