BLOOMINGTON — Karen and Robert Altman were wrapping up a celebration of their 20th anniversary on a fall night in 2016 when three men forced their way into the Altmans' Bloomington home.
The Altmans testified Tuesday the robbers took cash and possessions but the biggest loss was the peace of mind and security that has not been restored more than a year later.
Isaiah Miller was sentenced to 33 years Tuesday for his role in the home invasion in which Robert Altman was injured.
Reading from her victim impact statement, Karen Altman recalled coming into her home on Oxford Court on Sept. 7, 2016, after an anniversary dinner when she heard footsteps inside the front door.
"I saw three masked figures in the hallway mirror," said Altman, describing the chaos as her husband grabbed a knife to protect her.
Most unsettling, said the victim, was "they called me by my first name. That fact has kept me on edge since the attack."
The break-in has caused Robert Altman to become a "one-man vigilante" who has installed additional security cameras and bars on interior and exterior doors, said Karen Altman.
Robert Altman told the judge, "I relive this every night while I'm lying in bed."
Assistant State's Attorney John Shim asked for a 35-year sentence on the home invasion charges.
Calling the offense "a malicious act," Shim said the Altmans "basically are prisoners in their own home."
Defense lawyer Michael Herzog sought a 21-year sentence for the 20-year-old defendant. "The rehabilitation potential is there," Herzog said of his client.
The frightening experience was captured on a surveillance camera positioned inside the house. The jury that convicted Miller watched footage of the suspects pushing their way into the home and terrorizing the couple while armed with a handgun.
Robert Altman was struck in the head with a gun brought by Miller after the homeowner tried to stop the first robber from entering the living room.
Arrests came about a month after the incident when one of the suspects, while acting as a confidential source, told Normal police the names of the other two suspects in exchange for help with a shoplifting case that may have blocked his admission to drug court.
Cooley was called as a witness at the sentencing hearing but was not allowed to testify after the defense questioned the relevance of his testimony about the identity of the third suspect who has not been arrested.
In his statement to the judge, Miller outlined his childhood that was absent a stable home and role models.
"I stopped caring about life because I felt life stopped caring about me," said Miller.
Arrests for drugs and weapons during his teen years were followed by the personal tragedy of finding his sister who had committed suicide, Miller told the court.
In his comments, Drazewski said Miller "has a mind that ought and should not be wasted." But the home invasion created "a real horror story" for the Altmans, the judge noted.
In addition to the 33 years for invasion while armed with a firearm, Miller also was sentenced to a concurrent 10-year term for home invasion resulting in an injury.