Addison man ‘deserved’ life term for murders of mom, prostitute

An Addison man received a mandatory life sentence Wednesday for murdering his mother and a prostitute — but a DuPage County judge said he “deserved no less.”

Gary Schuning, 28, was convicted by a jury in May of first-degree murder in the Feb. 26, 2006, stabbing deaths of his mother, Doris Pagliaro, 40, and Chicago call girl Kristi Hoenig, 21.

In court Wednesday, Judge John Kinsella described the slayings as “utter depravity” while imposing the life term, which was mandatory because Schuning was convicted of killing twice.

“The defendant deserves no less than a life sentence,” the judge said. “This crime speaks of utter depravity.”

Jurors found Schuning guilty of repeatedly stabbing both women after he returned from a night of drinking, hard drug use, and clubbing in Chicago to his home on the 300 block of South Yale Avenue early that morning.

Prosecutors said Schuning first killed his mother, stabbing her 40 times and nearly decapitating her after the two began arguing. He then hid her body and called several escort services.

By the time Hoenig arrived, two other prostitutes had already come and gone without trouble. Prosecutors said it wasn’t until Hoenig saw something that upset her and called her pimp that Schuning stabbed her more than a dozen times.

Hoenig’s mother, Rose Hoenig of Green Bay, Wis., called the killings “brutal and cowardly” Wednesday as she described the agony she’s felt since the murder of her daughter, a “kind, gentle, loving and very spirited person,” she said.

“She knew that although I did not agree with her choice of lifestyle, I still loved her unconditionally and without judgment,” she said, fighting back tears. “I worried all the time because, in many ways, she was naive. But she’d say, ‘Don’t worry, mom. I’ll be OK.’”

In a letter to the court, Pagliaro’s sisters, Lynda Frank and Joyce Stern, also told of the “horrific” devastation left behind after “one night of Gary’s self-destruction.”

“Our lives were shattered,” they wrote. “It has been difficult to live without Doris.”

Although Schuning gave three recorded confessions, he argued at trial that he had no memory of the killings, which his defense tried to pin on a group of unknown intruders.

Kinsella said he never bought that argument.

“There’s no mistake from the evidence in this case that the defendant was solely responsible,” he said. “But why and how all this happened is a puzzle I certainly don’t pretend to understand. How he could do this to his own mother, it’s hard to fathom. And there’s certainly nothing (Hoenig) ever did to deserve this horrific end.”

Schuning had faced a possible death sentence until Illinois abolished the death penalty in March, shortly before he was scheduled to stand trial.

His grandmother said by phone Wednesday she believes he might have taken a different path if he had received more help with his problems following several run-ins with the law as a teenager and young adult.

“We’ve lost two people in our family now,” Ramona Schuning, 71, said. “Sometimes you just feel that something should have been done to help, but we didn’t know.”

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