Ronald Stolberg did not murder his wife for repeatedly poking him awake in the middle of the night, a Lake County jury ruled late Tuesday night.
However, a jury Tuesday did find Ronald Stolberg guilty of involuntarily killing his wife, Rachel, in the living room of their Vernon Hills townhouse in the early morning hours of June 8, 2011.
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Stolberg, 49, sat emotionless after the verdict was read in court at about 7:20 p.m. Tuesday night, minutes before he was remanded back into custody to await sentencing on the single count of involuntary manslaughter.
Defense attorney Bill Hedrick said he was pleased by the verdict and "happy the jury saw the truth of the case."
"We're going to (ask for) time served during his sentencing," Hedrick said. "He's been in for two years, with one of those years on electronic monitoring. He should receive credit for that time."
Stolberg could officially be sentenced up to five years in prison for the manslaughter charge. He is due back in court on July 17.
However, Stolberg could have been sentenced up to 60 years behind bars if he had been found guilty on first-degree murder prosecutors charged him with following Rachel Stolberg's death in 2011.
Prosecutors Jim Newman and Scott Hoffert argued that Stolberg became so irritated, sleep-deprived and frustrated with his mentally ill wife that he lashed out at her in the bedroom of their home on the 300 block of Farmington Lane after she poked him awake for the fourth time in the hours before her death.
"She's poking him, she's turning the lights on, and it aggravated him. And he didn't want to put up with it anymore," Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Jim Newman said during his closing argument Tuesday. "He said 'I'm done.' He said, 'I've had enough.' He takes her face down on that hardwood flood and he gets on top of her ... and he crushes her body into that floor."
Newman added during closing arguments early Tuesday that Ronald Stolberg put his knee into her back to cut off her breathing, then stayed on top of Rachel for at least two minutes after his wife's body went limp. That caused Rachel to die of traumatic asphyxiation due to physical restraint, he added.
"If he would have just gotten off her, she would have gotten up," Newman said. "He chose to crush the life out of her rather than give her the help she needed."
But, Hedrick successfully argued prosecutors had not been able to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that Ronald Stolberg had intentionally killed Rachel.
Instead, he said, pathologists who performed Rachel Stolberg's autopsy following her death could not come up with a clear reason why she had died.
In comparison, he said the defense's pathologist testified Rachel could have died of heart failure, and showed that Ronald Stolberg may have held his wife on the floor as a way stop her from hitting herself during a mental breakdown.
"This defendant did not cause his wife's death," Hedrick said. "And, more importantly, it was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he caused her death."
Had Stolberg "crushed" his wife on the floor intentionally as prosecutors allege, she would have had injuries that would have been pointed out during the autopsy, Hedrick said.
"There is no such evidence," he said. "There's nothing. Not a fracture, no broken ribs, nothing."