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Jury: Guilty verdict in ex-Bear's girlfriend death

The Associated Press
Tuesday, March 15, 2011; 10:09 PM

WAUKEGAN, Ill. -- A woman was convicted Tuesday of killing the pregnant girlfriend of former Chicago Bear Shaun Gayle in what prosecutors alleged was a meticulously planned execution of someone she viewed as a rival for the football player's affection.

After nearly four hours of deliberation, the Lake County jury found Marni Yang, 43, guilty of first-degree murder and intentional homicide of an unborn child. Yang faces a minimum 45-year prison term when sentenced later this year for the October 2007 shooting of Rhoni Reuter, 42.

Yang didn't testify during the trial. However, Gayle testified he met Yang in 2005 and the two had a business relationship that turned sexual. In closing arguments, the prosecutor called the death of Reuter was a "carefully planned out execution."

Assistant State's Attorney Ari Fisz said Reuter's pregnancy prompted Yang to spend months plotting the murder. Fisz replayed tapes heard during the two-week trial in which the woman described the shooting and how Reuter tried to kick her as she fought the attack. The tapes were recorded by a friend of Yang's without her knowledge.

Fisz urged jurors to convict Yang, saying there is "an overwhelming amount of evidence" tying her to the murder.

"She is absolutely, clearly, completely guilty," he said, pointing at Yang.

Defense attorney William Hedrick said in his closing that there was no physical evidence connecting Yang to the crime scene.

"This case is best characterized as a theory searching for evidence," Hedrick said, contending police focused on Yang as the only suspect within four days of the killing. "Marni Yang became suspect number one to the exclusion of everyone else in the world."

Hedrick acknowledged Yang knew Gayle but the defense argued the football player was involved with as many as 18 or 19 women at the time of Reuter's death. Gayle's attorney denied the assertion.

Reuter was seven months pregnant with the child of Gayle, a former Pro-Bowler and member of the Bears' 1985 Super Bowl-winning team.

Gayle and members of Reuter's family were in attendance when the verdict was returned.

© 2011 The Associated Press