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PHOENIX -- An Illinois man was sentenced Monday to life in prison after being convicted of murder in the 1988 death of a pizza restaurant's night manager.

Steven Michael Humelhans, 43, of Roscoe, Ill., was given a mandatory life sentence with the possibility of parole after he serves 25 years for killing 25-year-old Eric Rice.

Humelhans was first charged in 1996 but the case was dropped due to a lack of evidence. The investigation had grown cold until a witness provided new evidence that led to Humelhans being charged.

He was convicted by a Maricopa County jury after a 15-day trial that ended in June.

Authorities say Humelhans and another man went to Rice's work place, stole money, put Rice in the trunk of a vehicle and drove him to the desert north of Phoenix where Rice was killed.

Prosecutors argued at trial that Humelhans had confessed to his role in the crime to his ex-wife, Heather Robbins, KPHO-TV reported.

On Monday, Humelhans continued to maintain his innocence.

``I have never taken another life. I would never take another life,'' he said, reaching for tissue to wipe his eyes.

Prosecutor Kristin Larish told Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Bruce Cohen that Humelhans' actions left Rice without the opportunity to enjoy key moments in his life, such as attending the wedding of a child.

``Please remember that those are all things that Eric's family cannot experience with Eric,'' Larish said.

Associated Press,

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