Life sentence for murder of Shaun Gayle's girlfriend

Thad Reuter, left, and Landa Reuter, brother and mother of Rhoni Reuter, exit the Lake County courthouse after the sentencing of Marni Yang. (Chris Walker/Tribune)

Marni Yang was sentenced to life in prison this morning for gunning down the pregnant girlfriend of former Chicago Bear Shaun Gayle, with the judge citing the “methodical, meticulous and maniacal manner in which you committed this crime.”

Judge Christopher Stride handed down two life sentences with no parole, to run concurrently, for the death of Rhoni Reuter and her unborn child in Reuter’s Deerfield condominium on Oct. 4, 2007.

Yang showed no reaction, sitting almost motionless.

When Stride asked her if she understood the sentence, she consulted with her attorney and said, “Yes, your honor.”

Before Yang was sentenced, her attorney William Hedrick read a three-sentence statement that Yang had written.

“I would like to express my sorrow to the family. This is a tragic thing for any family to experience. I am truly sorry for their loss,” Hedrick read in court.

Reuter's father, Doug, hugged her mother, Landa when the sentence was handed down. They smiled with tears in their eyes.

After the hearing, they joined Reuter’s  brothers and their wives in the hallway with the prosecutors and two jurors who came to watch the sentencing.  The two women hugged Reuter’s relatives and expressed happiness with the sentence.

Gayle’s attorney Donna Rotunno read a short statement from him outside court after the sentencing: “The pain has been so unimaginable, and the desire to stop living so strong at times, I do not know how I am still here today.

"Some may be thinking ‘May God have mercy on your soul,’ but that’s not going to happen. If there is a hell, you will burn in the hottest part of it.”

Gayle had planned to give his victim impact statement directly to Yang and the judge, but defense lawyers said before the hearing they would challenge it on the basis that no one could offer proof Gayle was the unborn child's father. He was not at the courthouse today.

Yang's lawyers had little reaction to the sentence outside court, but they promised to appeal both the sentence and conviction.

Though she knew she faced a minimum of 45 years in prison, Hedrick said Yang, 43, was "the most stressed I've ever seen her."

Before sentencing, Stride had rejected an argument from the defense that Yang’s appearance during the trial might have negatively affected jurors during her murder trial, rejecting motions seeking to vacate the guilty verdict or dismiss the charges.

William Hedrick and prosecutors spent much of an hour arguing the issue of Yang’s make-up and hairstyle during the trial.  Hedrick argued Yang, without make-up, looked "drawn and haggard."

Yang, in ankle shackles and navy blue jail scrubs, adjusted in her chair and flipped her nearly waist-length hair behind the back rest.

But Stride rejected Hedrick’s argument.

"It's frankly a little bit remarkable to me that we have spent 45 minutes talking about Ms. Yang's hair on the day that she is to be sentenced for the murder of a pregnant woman and her unborn child," Stride said.

The issue was covered before trial, when Yang's lawyers asked that a hairstylist be allowed into the jail.