A Burlington County man was sentenced on Wednesday the first-degree murder of a New Jersey softball star.
Stephen Headley admitted to wanting to kill Nicole Ayres in September 2010 when he stabbed the 22-year-old former Deptford Township High School star and then dumped her body near soccer fields in Southampton Township.
Headley took a plea deal last June that would have put him behind bars for 30 years without parole. Ayres' family protested and the judge rejected the deal however.
In December, Headley pleaded guilty once again. On Wednesday he was formally sentenced to 50 years in prison.
The Mount Holly man along with his lawyer told the court that he met Ayres through a friend, she had agreed to meet him at a local Wawa, they got in an argument in the car and then he stabbed her multiple times in the face, torso and back with the intent to kill her. The family insists Headley lured Nicole out the night of her murder and killed her after she refused his advances. She was supposed to report for practice the next day at Rutgers-Camden where she transferred to be closer to her family.
Nicole went from Deptford High to Fordham University on a full-ride where she was the Atlantic 10 rookie of the year. But beyond her accomplishments on the field it was the type of person she was off of it that her family remembers the most. It’s that memory that causes them the most pain.
“She was so giving,” said her father while in tears. “God, so much was taken.”
“That was my girl,” said Rick Ayres. "I don’t have her to walk down the aisle. I won’t have her to grow old with.”
At the time of Ayres killing, Headley was a registered sex offender on parole. After allegedly telling his mother and grandmother about what he did, Headley ran out into the street and was hit by a pickup truck causing him rib, back and ankle fractures, according to county prosecutors.
Headley's lawyer told NBC10 that his client was remorseful for the killing.
Ayres family thinks that the chance that Headley could ever walk out of prison means that his punishment isn't enough.
“He should never walk on this earth and breathe our air ever after what he did to her and the way he did it,” said Nicole’s Aunt Suzanne Calabrese. “He took her from us in such a brutal, violent way for no reason.”
Headley will be 70-years-old before he's eligible for parole.
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