HENNEPIN — Two years and a day after Deborah Dewey’s death, Clifford Andersen Jr. of Standard got the maximum sentence for beating his sister-in-law to death and burying her in a shallow grave.

Andersen, 68, was sentenced Thursday to 60 years in prison for murdering the 62-year-old Ladd woman and five more for concealing her homicidal death.

“This was a brutal murder,” Circuit Judge Stephen Kouri observed during the sentencing hearing in Putnam County Circuit Court. “It’s hard to have a range of murders (on more or less brutal). They’re all brutal. But this one’s at the top.”

The retired truck driver’s sentence was handed down about a month after a jury found him guilty in a two-week trial that ended July 20. The jurors deliberated about 3 ½ hours before endorsing the prosecution portrait of Andersen as a manipulative schemer who exploited Dewey’s generosity to siphon money from her IRA account to support a gambling habit and then murdered her when she stopped the flow of funds.

“What he’s done to our family is unconscionable,” niece Sue Marshall said in one of two brief statements made Thursday by members of Dewey’s large extended family.

“I pray that his sentence is lengthy and arduous,” nephew-in-law Roberto Giuliano said in the other.

Dewey, who was last seen alive on Aug. 22, 2016, was found Sept. 10, with her body tightly wrapped in a tarp and buried in manure outside a vacant Standard home to which Andersen had access as a caretaker. Photographs of a blood-soaked carpet and blood-spattered walls, along with surveillance video of him buying manure, were among the numerous pieces of evidence used to establish the house as the crime scene.

“He beat a defenseless woman to death, a woman who relied on him and tried to help him,” co-prosecutor Bill Elward of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office said Thursday. “He beat that woman to death, and then he left her wrapped in that plastic tarp for three weeks, and then he buried her in the yard.”

The sentencing range for first-degree murder is 20 to 60 years, which must be served in full, while concealment is punishable by up to five and subject to day-for-day credit. Elward asked Kouri for five on concealment, but for an unspecified “upper range” on the murder.

“We decided that we really couldn’t give a number to the judge, because Deb’s life is worth more than a number,” State’s Attorney Christina Judd Mennie explained after the hearing.

Co-defense attorney Drew Parker called attention to the numerous letters sent on Andersen’s behalf and gathered into a pre-sentencing report. People who knew the defendant referred to him as a good-hearted person, a wonderful father, a family man, a man of great character and a war hero from his Vietnam service, Parker noted.

“It’s incongruous with what he’s been charged with and now convicted of. So what we have here is a situation that’s almost unexplainable,” Parker said. “This conviction is not characteristic of this individual. He still maintains his innocence.”

In a rambling statement that also touched on topics ranging from his military service to his frequent visits to a truck stop gaming parlor to a fall he suffered while in jail before the trial, Andersen suggested he had been framed by someone who knew of his access to the property.

“(Prosecutors) sit there and say, ‘He’s nothing but a murderer, he’s nothing but a no-good guy.’ That’s not me. I would never hurt a woman or Debbie in that manner,” said Andersen, who did not testify at his trial. “What it came down to, whoever did that, they’re going to get away with it. They brought her to that property so I would get nailed because they know I take care of it.”

Kouri pointed out that he had received more pre-sentencing letters in this case from both sides than in any other he has handled, and one frequent request has been that he sentence Andersen to “the max.” But that number is set by the state legislature, while a judge has to look at the specific circumstances of the crime, he emphasized.

“Justice is not signified by saying the word ‘max.’” said Kouri, who then turned directly to Andersen: “Having said that, I’m going to give you the max…You’re going to serve every day, every hour, every second of that 60 years, as long as you’re alive.”

Andersen’s family members had been hoping for something less and were “completely devastated,” Parker said afterwards. Dewey’s were “ecstatic,” said Mennie.

“We couldn’t be more happy with the Putnam County jury and all our support staff and, of course, what the judge did today,” Mennie added. “It just proves that you can’t get away with things like that in Putnam County.”

Andersen wants to appeal, but that will be handled by the appellate defender, who was appointed to the case Thursday. A cousin of Andersen who has paid “virtually all of his fees” will no longer be doing so, Parker told Kouri, so he and son Rob were allowed to withdraw from the case.

Gary L. Smith can be reached at (800) 516-0389 or glsmith@mtco.com.