A 20-year-old Buffalo woman was sentenced Wednesday in State Supreme Court for her role in the July 2016 beating death of a popular, beloved Buffalo restaurant owner.
Dalene T. McIlwain was sentenced to 12 years in prison, followed by five years of post-release supervision, by State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia, according to the Erie County District Attorney's Office.
The robbery and killing of 79-year-old Upender Bawa in his apartment above the Taste of Life restaurant on Sycamore Street upset residents in the neighborhood.
Bawa had run the restaurant for more than 20 years. He offered life advice and made sure those in need who patronized his establishment had something to eat, even when they couldn't afford to pay, according to those who knew him.
After Bawa's death, friends recalled how he cooked in the front window of his restaurant — visible to anyone traveling on the East Side.
McIlwain was the last of three defendants sentenced in the case.
McIlwain's boyfriend, 27-year-old Jamell Chapman, of Niagara Falls, was sentenced to 24 years in prison followed by 5 years of post-release supervision, in April 2018. He pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in connection with the attack on Bawa.
The second defendant sentenced in the case was Chapman's sister, 32-year-old Shanita Chapman, of Buffalo, who was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison in June. She pleaded guilty to first-degree attempted robbery.
McIlwain pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery in April 2017 for her role in the incident.
Prosecutors accused Chapman of beating Bawa to death, after McIlwain helped him find a way into Bawa's apartment. It is believed that Bawa had given McIlwain access to his apartment after she befriended the older man.
Investigators said Bawa was killed July 17, 2016, but his body wasn’t found until July 19.
Neighbors were suspicious because Bawa's car was gone, but the death wasn’t ruled a homicide until a few weeks later when it was determined that Bawa did not sustain the blunt force trauma that killed him in a fall or by accident.