A man convicted in the murder of Katherine Pedigo of Moline was sentenced to natural life in prison Wednesday by a Rock Island County judge.

Eric Henry, 36, was convicted of Pedigo’s April 20, 2008, murder by a Rock Island County jury last month. This week, a second suspect, Gustavo Dominguez, 31, was found unfit to stand trial and placed in the custody of the

Illinois Department of Human Services.

Henry’s criminal history was cited by Judge Charles “Casey” Stengel as he imposed the sentence. Henry, who won’t be eligible for parole on the murder conviction, was on parole at the time of Pedigo’s murder for an armed robbery in Chicago in 1997. In that case, he threatened and cut an elderly woman.

“To allow you to have a sentence that allows you to be released would not be protecting the public,” Stengel told Henry.

Pedigo, 25, was found dead in her bathtub with multiple stab wounds. Henry and Dominguez, who lived in separate second-floor apartments above Pedigo at 320 16th Ave., Moline, were accused of stealing about $500 worth of her belongings.

Mary Pedigo, Pedigo’s mother, testified Wednesday that her daughter had just moved out of her house and rented the apartment 24 days before her death. She recalled meeting Henry when her daughter signed the lease and expressed regret for not recognizing him as a threat.

“She was just beginning her adult life,” Mary Pedigo said. “She was not sure she wanted to be by herself yet, but she was proud of being on her own.”

Pedigo’s sisters, Angela Dooley and Amanda Coulter, and her father, Steven Pedigo, also testified and all recalled Katherine Pedigo’s love of animals. They said she was enrolled in college and doing well.

“Katherine was proud of her independence,” Coulter testified. “She used to tell me how excited she was to get a bill with her name on it.”

Mary Pedigo, Coulter and Dooley, also talked about how their lives have changed and they, and other family members, now fear being alone and are less trusting of others.

“Now that Katie is gone, everything just seems to have changed,” Coulter said. “My loss feels like an emotion I never knew could have existed.”

Steven Pedigo expressed frustration with the legal system for not keeping Henry in custody longer for his previous crimes.

“The state of Illinois had many opportunities to prevent my daughter’s death,” he said.

Henry maintained his innocence and offered a brief response in which he thanked his attorneys for believing him.

“Hopefully, the people that done this won’t go free,” he said.

According to evidence presented in the trial, Henry called police and firefighters to the four-unit house on April 20, 2008, for a fire. Prosecutors said he and Dominguez started two small fires in the basement in an attempt to cover up the crime. Dominguez was the one who claimed to have discovered Pedigo’s body while warning neighbors about the smoke.

Henry was arrested not long after police started investigating. Dominguez was considered a suspect by police early on, but investigators did not gather enough evidence to arrest him until March. At the time of his arrest, he was still living at the house where Pedigo was killed.

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