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Judge orders 50-year sentence for former Chicago cop who fatally shot wife in Spring Grove

A former Chicago police officer received a 50-year prison sentence Wednesday for the 2017 murder of his wife and fellow former officer, Elizabeth "Betty" Volberding.

McHenry County Judge Michael Coppedge found 74-year-old Lorin Volberding guilty of first-degree murder on Jan. 15, following a trial by judge. The 50-year-sentence is the sum of a 25-year prison term for the first-degree murder conviction plus a mandatory additional 25 years because Lorin Volberding used a gun to carry out the act.

"It really wasn't a question of if he was going to do it," Elizabeth Volberding's son, Bryan Bahles, said in court. "It was when."

In accordance with Illinois Truth in Sentencing guidelines, Lorin Volberding must serve 100% of the sentence, Coppedge said.

The charges stemmed from a Feb. 3, 2017, shooting, during which Lorin Volberding fired a single shot into Elizabeth Volberding's neck, killing her, prosecutors said. The married couple had been celebrating Elizabeth Volberding's 68th birthday that morning.

Recalling previous alleged instances of abuse, including one argument about an overcooked pot roast, Bahles said he wished Lorin Volberding could receive the death sentence. Since the state abolished the death penalty in 2011, Bahles asked Coppedge to instead sentence Lorin Volberding to the maximum possible prison term – 85 years.

"He gave my mom the maximum. I'll never get to see her again. I don't think he should get to see the light of day ever again," Bahles said. "Ever again."

When he was younger, Bahles looked up to Lorin Volberding as a father figure, but later sensed his stepfather was intentionally distancing Elizabeth Volberding from her children, he said.

"He kept my mother away from me," Bahles said.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors showed photos and police body camera footage of the Volberdings’ kitchen the day of Elizabeth Volberding’s death. The couple had been celebrating her birthday before they began to argue about selling their home in the 10800 block of Riviera Drive, Spring Grove, Lorin Volberding told police.

During a recorded police interview, Lorin Volberding told officers his wife threw knives and other kitchen utensils at him as they argued. He then retrieved a loaded revolver from his armoire and fired a single shot into Elizabeth Volberding’s neck, he told police.

There was no testimony indicating whether knives were found at the scene, and when Lorin Volberding took the stand at trial, he didn’t remember shooting his wife.

As he addressed the judge Wednesday, Lorin Volberding said he "never laid a finger" on Elizabeth Volberding.

"She always told me that, if I hit her, it would be the last time," Lorin Volberding said.

The man's attorney, Henry Sugden, argued Wednesday that Lorin Volberding didn't intend to kill his wife. Rather, it was a combination of alcohol, mental and physical health complications, and medications that led to the shooting, Sugden said.

"I think they all play into this tragic event. It's tragic for everybody," he said.

McHenry County Assistant State's Attorney Michael Combs asked for at least the minimum 45-year sentence, which for Lorin Volberding would mean life in prison.

"This was a heinous crime," Combs said.

According to Lorin Volberding's attorney, doctors have diagnosed him with dementia and throat cancer. Part of his tongue was removed as a result of the cancer he suffered during his three-year stay at the McHenry County Jail, Sugden said.

The issue of Lorin Volberding’s competency to stand trial, however, was settled at a fitness hearing months earlier. In August, jurors heard from two experts with opposing thoughts about Lorin Volberding’s mental fitness. The jury ultimately determined that Lorin Volberding had the mental capacity to stand trial.

"I don't really understand this whole situation," Volberding said before receiving the sentence Wednesday. "You could just give me two years and I'll be dead. Everyone knows that."

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