A former suburban Chicago man was sentenced to 22 years in prison Friday, following his confession to the murder of a teen more than 35 years ago.
Fred Rogers, now 51, was a teenager when he fatally stabbed 17-year-old Kenny Hellstrom three times in the chest and four times in the back. Rogers pleaded guilty to the crime Friday.
Considering sentencing laws in effect at the time of the January 1977 murder of Kenny Hellstrom, his killer will likely serve about eight years.
Hellstrom was walking home from his job at a gas station on Jan. 19, 1977. Rogers, then 16, had argued with Hellstrom earlier in the day and agreed to meet him. He later stabbed the teen.
Hellstrom continued on to his home, reaching the kitchen door, where his then-13-year-old sister, now known as Janice Rees, found him lying in the snow bleeding.
His mother, Carol, then picked him up.
"Help me, help me. I can't breathe," he said, according to Assistant State's Attorney Ethan Holland.
Those words would be his last. He was taken to South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest where he later died.
Rogers was initially a suspect, though he was not questioned in the initial investigation. He fled his Flossmoor home following the killing, and drifted to places including Pennsylvania, California, and Tennessee, according to police.
Police would eventually question of hundreds of people in what became an on-and-off investigation. It became a focus for the Cook County Cold Case Squad in 2005.
Rogers was pulled over for a traffic violation in 2007 and arrested after police found marijuana in his vehicle. He confessed to the murder shortly thereafter.
Hellstrom's family says they are satisfied Kenny's mother was still alive to see someone charged in her son's death. She died in 2010.
"Thank God (our mother) was alive when he was caught and she knew he did it," Rees said.
Attorneys battled over several issues after Rogers' arrest, most notably, whether Rogers could be tried as an adult, since he was 16 at the time of the crime. A judge decided he could be charged as an adult in 2007.
As he pleaded guilty Friday, in a voice so quiet Judge Michele Simmons asked him to repeat himself, he said, "I'm sorry for what happened. It's done away with."
"Unfortunately it's not for those people," Simmons snapped back. "You hear all that pain? You caused it."
Hellstrom's family is satisfied to see the litigation come to an end.
"We're so glad the whole thing is over with," Rees said after the hearing. "Now we can put this to rest."