Navy recruiter gets 100 years for Villa Park killing of wife, unborn child

  • Eric Gilford

    Eric Gilford

  • Kristine Gilford

    Kristine Gilford

 
Updated 10/5/2011 5:32 PM

Eric Gilford will spend the rest of his life behind bars after the former U.S. Navy recruiter was sentenced to a century in prison for stabbing his estranged pregnant wife 16 times, killing her and their unborn son.

"It's impossible to imagine the anguish this young mother felt as she gasped for her last breath as her 4-year-old daughter looked on," DuPage County Judge Kathryn Creswell said.

 

She sentenced the 32-year-old Downers Grove man Wednesday to consecutive 50-year terms for the murder of his wife Kristine, 34, and the intentional homicide of their unborn child. Gilford, who pleaded guilty in June, would have to serve least 92 years before he is eligible for parole.

"He's not going to survive that length," said Kristine's father, Dennis Courtney, who was satisfied with the sentence.

Courtney said his family will now move on with raising Kristine's daughter from a previous relationship, who witnessed the May 26, 2010, attack.

Gilford told authorities he placed the child on top of her mother as she writhed in pain. It was her fourth birthday.

"She's doing well" given the circumstances, Courtney said. "But she still has nightmares and is going to need longtime support."

Gilford stabbed Kristine, who was 20 weeks pregnant, 16 times with a 12-inch hunting knife after tracking her to her ex-boyfriend's apartment, where she was staying with her daughter. She later died of wounds to her chest, back, abdomen and arms. The fetus was not injured in the attack, authorities said, but died with the mother.

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Assistant State's Attorneys David Bayer and Demetri Demopoulos sought a 140-year term for Gilford. They said he was enraged when Kristine told him she loved the other man and that he willing to help care for the child.

A neighbor found the victim's 4-year-old daughter covered in blood and wandering the apartment building moments later. Kristine lived long enough to identify Gilford as her attacker, authorities said, and the child also named him the "bad man" who hurt her mom.

After the murder, Gilford drove to Fargo, North Dakota, and abandoned his vehicle and GPS. He later traveled to Seattle, where he went to a White Sox game, and eventually Jackson, Wyo., where he assumed the identity of a man he once tried to recruit for the Navy, prosecutors said.

U.S. Marshals caught up with Gilford at a homeless shelter after weeks of investigating. He later claimed he wasn't sure if he was the father of Kristine's child, but medical tests proved he was, authorities said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Kristine, who grew up in Arlington Heights and attended high school in Naperville, had an associate degree in nursing and once held down two jobs to support herself and her daughter, according to her father. She and Gilford were married in February 2010 after meeting online and dating for about two months, relatives said.

Kristine's father said his family saw "no red flags" that Gilford, who was pursuing a promotion in the Navy just before the killings, could become violent.

Gilford was a 1997 graduate of Conant High School in Hoffman Estates. He offered a brief apology to the victim's family and his own at a sentencing hearing last week, saying he was especially sorry for Kristine's daughter.

A 13-year Navy veteran with no prior criminal record, Gilford has a history of mental illness and claimed he heard voices saying, "Stab her, stab her" when his wife left him for another man. Assistant Public Defender Ricky Holman had asked the judge to consider those factors and sentence Gilford so he would be eligible for parole at an elderly age.

But Creswell said the killings were clearly premeditated.

"His behavior was organized," she said. "He knew his actions were wrong."