At 58 years old, Martin J. Canonico already has a head full of gray hair and a bushy gray mustache. But he’ll be much older and grayer the next time he walks out of Illinois state prison.

Convicted of residential burglary for entering a Riverside home last September, Canonico was sentenced on June 6 to 20 years in prison by Judge Noreen Love. He arrived at Stateville Prison in Joliet on June 14 to begin serving his time.

According to a spokesman for the Cook County State’s Attorney, Canonico’s sentence reflected his long history as a career criminal, with many previous arrests and convictions for burglary.

Although residential burglary is a Class 1 felony, usually punishable by up to 14 years in prison, Canonico’s past history meant he was Class X-eligible. That meant a prison sentence of up to 30 years.

That history was a factor for Love, who previously admitted as evidence Canonico’s extensive criminal record, despite the objections of Canonico’s public defender, who said that information would be prejudicial.

Canonico, a Westchester resident, was convicted of burglary and weapons charges in 1986, serving a five-year sentence. He was subsequently convicted of burglary in 1990, 1992 and 1996. Canonico received a 10-year sentence for the last conviction, but was on parole in 2002 when he was again convicted of burglary.

According to prosecutors, Canonico’s method of operation was almost always the same. He would pose as a handyman or painter to gain access to the homes of victims, mostly elderly people, then burglarize them.

On Sept. 9, 2010, Canonico thought he found another mark – an elderly man mowing his lawn outside a home in the 200 block of Addison Road. Canonico walked into the home, but was confronted by the man’s 45-year-old daughter, who chased him out of the house and down the block before he knocked her to the ground and ran off.

But Canonico didn’t get far. Police cordoned off the area and began a manhunt that lasted three hours. They eventually found Canonico in the backyard of a home about a block away.

Canonico’s lawyer argued that he hadn’t taken anything from the Riverside home and had fliers advertising a painting business. The jury believed prosecutors who argued that Canonico used the fliers as a ruse and that he planned to burglarize the home.

– Bob Uphues