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Article updated: 5/22/2013 4:13 PM

Pathologist: Stolberg prevented wife from breathing

Ronald Stolberg reacts as Dr. Manny Montez, a forensic pathologist, reviews photos and details of the autopsy performed on Stolberg’s wife, Rachel Stolberg. Ronald Stolberg is on trial for her 2011 death.

Ronald Stolberg reacts as Dr. Manny Montez, a forensic pathologist, reviews photos and details of the autopsy performed on Stolberg's wife, Rachel Stolberg. Ronald Stolberg is on trial for her 2011 death.

 

Pool/Chicago Tribune, Stacey Wescott

Ronald Stolberg

Ronald Stolberg

 
Ronald Stolberg covers his face as he enters the courtroom of Judge Mark Levitt in Lake County on Wednesday. Stolberg is on trial for the 2011 first-degree murder for his wife, Rachel Stolberg.

Ronald Stolberg covers his face as he enters the courtroom of Judge Mark Levitt in Lake County on Wednesday. Stolberg is on trial for the 2011 first-degree murder for his wife, Rachel Stolberg.

 

Pool/Chicago Tribune, Stacey Wescott

Lake County Judge Mark Levitt listens intently to the objections of defense attorneys during the murder trial of Ronald Stolberg in Waukegan on Wednesday.

Lake County Judge Mark Levitt listens intently to the objections of defense attorneys during the murder trial of Ronald Stolberg in Waukegan on Wednesday.

 

Pool/Chicago Tribune, Stacey Wescott

Dr. Manny Montez, a forensic pathologies, testifies about the autopsy of Rachel Stolberg during the murder trial of Ronald Stolberg on Wednesday in Waukegan.

Dr. Manny Montez, a forensic pathologies, testifies about the autopsy of Rachel Stolberg during the murder trial of Ronald Stolberg on Wednesday in Waukegan.

 

Pool/Chicago Tribune, Stacey Wescott

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A forensic pathologist testified Wednesday that Rachel Stolberg died from traumatic asphyxiation when she was prevented from breathing during a struggle with her husband in their Vernon Hills home.

However, defense attorneys cross examining Dr. Manny Montez, who performed the autopsy following Rachel Stolberg's death in 2011, pointed out she had no damage to her larynx, ribs, neck, throat or lungs despite being asphyxiated.

Ronald Stolberg is on trial in front of Lake County Judge Mark Levitt for his wife's death. He is charged with three counts of first-degree murder.

Authorities said Stolberg, 49, intentionally asphyxiated his wife because she was bothering him while he was trying to sleep on June 7 and into the early morning hours the next day in their home in the 300 block of Farmington Lane.

However, defense attorneys say Rachel Stolberg died when Ronald Stolberg made a mistake while trying to prevent her from hurting herself during a mental breakdown she was having in the middle of the night.

He is held without bond and faces up to 60 years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors said Ronald Stolberg pushed Rachel facedown onto the hardwood floor and held her there with his knee until she stopped struggling.

Montez said, "like a boa constrictor," Stolberg squeezed his wife hard enough against the floor to prevent her from inhaling, but not hard enough to break her ribs or injure her lungs, throat or neck.

"It's possible to do this without a rib fracture or spinal injury," Montez said testified. "If you don't allow the chest to expand ... the person will stop breathing."

However, defense attorney Kevin Rozner of Northbrook challenged Montez about the lack of injuries found during the June 9 autopsy.

"Doctor, you don't know how she died, do you?" he asked during cross examination.

Montez replied, "I do know how she died."

Following her testimony, jurors watched a video confession of Stolberg later in the afternoon.

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