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UPDATE: Life in prison for Twin-Cities woman convicted of killing 8-year old girl

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UPDATE (8:45 p.m.) - Rica Rountree's mother comments on Cynthia Baker's sentence.

BLOOMINGTON (WEEK) - A Twin-Cities woman convicted of killing an eight-year old girl has been ordered to spend the rest of her life in prison.

McLean County Judge Casey Costigan handed down the life sentence Thursday, noting the case against Cynthia Baker, 43, was the most "distressing" in his more than 14-years on the bench.

Costigan denied Baker's motion for a new trial, then proceeded to a sentencing hearing, which happened one-year to the day that a jury found Baker guilty of first-degree murder for killing Rica Rountree.

The child's father was Baker's ex-boyfriend Richard Rountree, who's serving an eight-year prison sentence for his guilty plea to child endangerment.

"I'm happy that it's over. I'm glad that at least people are being held accountable," Rica's mother Anntionetta Rountree Simmons told 25 News.

"I taste justice," Simmons added.

The minimum possible prison sentence for Baker was 20 years, but she qualified for life-in-prison because of "exceptionally brutal or heinous behavior indicative of wanton cruelty," as stated in Illinois law. There is no death penalty in Illinois.

Prosecutors said Baker kicked the child so hard in the stomach that she died of the injuries.

At trial, jurors saw video of repeated physical abuse. Costigan said the type of punishment inflicted on young Rica was "demented" and "evil."

The judge received about a dozen letters from Baker's relatives pleading for leniency and claiming Baker is not a monster. However, Assistant State's Attorney Erika Reynolds said she can't think of a better adjective than "monstrous" to describe Baker's actions.

"I know that there's so much more that I want to be done but I mean we're in the right direction," said Simmons.

"This part is done I don't have to see her face anymore. I'm retiring her name from my vocabulary," she said.

Simmons said she wants DCFS staffers who handled Rica's case to be fired, and she's considering a lawsuit. Simmons also has set up a Facebook page and a website.

Baker meantime is expected to appeal her conviction and sentence.

Howard Packowitz

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