(WJBK) - Ujuan Burton was sentenced to life in prison Friday for the murder of party store owner Emil Salem, as a heartbreaking letter from the victim's wife was read aloud to the court.
Salem was killed in his store, Bernie's Market, almost one year to the day of Burton's sentencing. He died during an armed robbery and is credited for saving his son's life.
Burton pleaded guilty to killing Salem a year ago in his store, Bernie's Market. He apologized during the sentencing Friday as the judge sentenced him to five life sentences. Two other people involved in the crime will be sentenced next month.
Salem is remembered for being a devoted husband and father. A letter from his wife Rafida was read in court during the sentencing, offering Burton forgiveness.
"I would like to say I forgive you. I forgive you for making me a widow at such a young age. I forgive you for taking the love of my life away forever. I forgive you for taking my best friend, my partner, my soul mate away from me," the letter read.
The words of the letter brought Burton to tears.
"I forgive you for depriving my only daughter, his princess, for walking her down the aisle on her special day," the letter read on.
Burton pleaded guilty on the first day of his trial, saying he didn't want to put the Salem's family through any more pain.
"The world is clearly not a better place without Emil Salem in it. However, the world is a far better place without you in it. You are about to receive the most severe sentence the State of Michigan can hand out to one of its citizens. In your case, it just doesn't seem like enough," Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Richard Caretti said to Burton.
Burton will serve life behind bars with no chance for parole.
"I should not have brought my drama and or my woes and my sorrows to your store or to your family," Burton said in court. "I apologize, and those of you who don't forgive me, I pray that you forgive me one day, even though I shall not be forgiving myself."
Burton's attorney told the court that Burton has been counseling people in jail, and believes if he had chosen a different path, his talents would have taken far in life.
Salem's family will hold a candlelight vigil outside of the store on Saturday at 7 p.m. to mark the one year anniversary of Salem's death.