OTTAWA — A parolee who robbed a Peru McDonald’s on Easter weekend 2017 was sentenced Thursday to 58 years in prison — but not before he offered the judge a last-ditch excuse for what drove him to commit the holdup.

Eddie Stiff, 50, of Chicago said his friends drugged him. Once he was out of his wits, he drove to the drive-thru on Shooting Park Road, severely injured a worker and left behind a slew of clues worthy, in his words, of “America’s Dumbest Criminals.”

“This was not something I planned to strategized,” Stiff said, adding later, “It’s unfathomable that someone would do this consciously.”

Judge Cynthia M. Raccuglia listened patiently and then told him, “I don’t believe a word of it.”

“And it supports my decision,” the judge added, “that you clearly are a danger to society.”

Raccuglia did acknowledge his guilty plea and shaved 2 years off the 60 years prosecutors had recommended. With more than 600 days served and a shot at day-for-day good time, Stiff could be paroled when he is about 77 years of age.

Stiff was charged with armed robbery April 15, 2017, (Holy Saturday) after a McDonald’s worker reported being struck in the face with a handgun by a motorist who demanded money from the till.

Police quickly recovered a wallet, ID enclosed, near the crime scene and followed a literal trail to a silver Nissan. Through the car windows police could see a ski mask and currency.

At that time, Stiff had been paroled less than a year (282 days) after serving about half a 50-year sentence for murder. (Murderers then were eligible for day-for-day good time.) He was one of three people charged with murder and armed robbery in the 1990 slaying of Desiree Owens, a college student gunned down in her father’s grocery in Chicago.

At sentencing Thursday, assistant public defender Doug Kramarsic asked for a prison term close to the 21-year minimum, citing the fact that Stiff had earned an associate degree and was gainfully employed shortly after his parole. He also tried to get Raccuglia to look somewhat past the murder conviction. “He served his sentence,” Kramarsic said. “He’s paid his debt to society. It’s done.”

But the state had agreed to limit their sentencing recommendation to just 60 years out of a possible 75. Assistant La Salle County state’s attorney Jeremiah Adams stood by the 60-year request and said he was alarmed that a paroled killer would event attempt a crime of this magnitude just 10 months after release.

“When a person is sent to prison for murder, you need to be careful about jaywalking, much less something like this,” Adams said, adding later, “What we’ve moved on to is protecting the public.”

Stiff objected to being termed a murderer. He said he wasn’t the triggerman in the Owens killing and was charged and convicted as an accessory.

Tom Collins can be reached at (815) 220-6930 or courtreporter@newstrib.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_Court.

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Tom Collins is the NewsTribune Senior Reporter. He can be reached at (815) 220-6930 or courtreporter@newstrib.com.

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