Man who smothered wife ordered to pay $6 million
By Jim Newton firstname.lastname@example.org September 4, 2013 4:42PM
Updated: October 7, 2013 12:50PM
A Lake County judge awarded a $6 million civil wrongful death ruling Wednesday afternoon to the family of Rachel Stolberg, who was smothered by her husband Ronald Stolberg in June 2011.
The family’s attorney, Gary Foley, said relatives will not realistically receive that amount from Ronald Stolberg, but that the award will ensure that the civil suit’s goal — to prevent Stolberg from profiting from his late wife’s estate — will be achieved.
“Ronald Stolberg doesn’t get anything from Rachel’s estate because of his actions,” Foley said after the Sept. 4 ruling.
“The family is very happy with the judge’s ruling.”
“I think a human life has some value, and Rachel Stolberg had a good relationship with her siblings and their children,” said Foley. He said that any assets received as a result of the ruling will be divided among Rachel’s five siblings.
Stolberg was convicted last month of involuntary manslaughter in the death of his wife, and sentenced to eight years in prison.
Authorities said that he suffocated his 54-year-old wife after she poked him awake for the fourth time in the middle of the night.
Both prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed Rachel suffered from mental illness.
Stolberg was not present Wednesday when Judge Diane Winter made her ruling, although Foley said both he and his attorney in the civil case were legally notified.
“For some reason, he chose not to participate in these proceedings,” Foley said.
When the civil suit was filed in May, Foley said he believed Stolberg had at least $170,000 in assets. He said those assets include gold and silver that the family believes are Rachel’s but Stolberg claimed are his own.
About three months before Rachel was killed, Stolberg drove his wife to her sister’s Grayslake residence to drop off a safe full of gold coins that was an investment, according to court records. Stolberg claimed he purchased the gold coins before he married Rachel in May 2007, but pictures show the coins were minted in 2008, according to Foley.
After Rachel was murdered, Stolberg was released from custody on $300,000 bond. While out on bond as his criminal case was pending, Stolberg sold the couple’s Vernon Hills condo and attempted to take money out of Rachel’s bank account, Foley said.
Foley said that under Illinois statute, a person cannot benefit from a wrongful death that he has caused, and Wednesday’s ruling will help ensure that Stolberg will not.
Stolberg could be out of prison in about a year depending on the outcome of a Sept. 13 hearing on a motion to reconsider his sentence. His criminal attorneys said the time Stolberg spent on electronic monitoring should count toward his sentence under state statute.
Stolberg has already been given credit for the 403 days he has spent in Lake County Jail, and if the 411 days of electronic monitoring is also counted, he would have roughly a year left to spend in prison due in part to time credited for good behavior.