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Vernon Hills man sentenced to 8 years in wife’s suffocation death

Ronald Stolberg left sits with his attorneys William Hedrick KevRosner during sentencing hearing Thursday August 8 2013 Lake County Courthouse

Ronald Stolberg, left, sits with his attorneys William Hedrick and Kevin Rosner during the sentencing hearing Thursday, August 8, 2013, at the Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan. Stolberg was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of his wife Rachel in Vernon Hills. | Gilbert R. Boucher~Daily Herald

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Updated: October 8, 2013 2:39AM

A judge sentenced Ronald Stolberg to eight years in prison on Thursday, Aug. 8, after he was convicted of involuntarily killing his wife in their Vernon Hills home.

Prosecutors charged Stolberg, 49, with first-degree murder in the June 8, 2011, death of his wife, Rachel.

Authorities said Stolberg suffocated his 54-year-old wife after she poked Stolberg awake for the fourth time in the middle of the night.

Both prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed Rachel suffered from mental illness.

After deliberating for more than five hours, a Lake County jury in May found him guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

Stolberg showed no emotion as Lake County Judge Mark Levitt delivered the sentence.

Levitt called Stolberg’s behavior toward his wife “deeply disturbing.”

“You have a callous disregard to anyone who stands in your way,” Levitt said.

Before the sentencing, Stolberg instructed his attorney to read a letter that he sent to his mother, but addressed to Rachel.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t take better care of you,” attorney Bill Hedrick read from the letter, which also included a drawing of a woman in a pink dress.

During Stolberg’s trial, his attorneys said he tried to prevent his wife from hurting herself while she was having a mental breakdown.

On Thursday, they pointed to testimony from the defense’s pathologist that argued that Rachel died from natural causes.

His attorneys said she had stopped eating, drinking and talking to Stolberg.

But Assistant State’s Attorney Scott Hoffert said Stolberg laid on top of his wife on the hardwood floor of their living room until she stopped breathing.

“This is a man who laid on top of a sick woman until she died in her own home,” Hoffert said.

Rachel’s niece Heather Barnstein said she felt “robbed by her death.”

“Rachel was not healthy when she was killed, and we all knew that, but it wasn’t the type of illness that would have taken her life,” Barnstein read from a prepared statement.

“She should be here, her love and her energy should still be here. And they are not, and that is not something I can ever forget.”

Stolberg’s attorneys, who sought probation or a term of conditional discharge, said they plan to petition the judge to reconsider his ruling.

“I’m disappointed, but the judge gave us a tremendous trial,” Hedrick said.

Stolberg will serve a shorter sentence, however, because of credit for time behind bars.

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