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CHICAGO (CBS) – A Cook County jury awarded $40 million to the family of Rhoni Reuter on Wednesday, in a lawsuit they filed against the woman convicted of killing Reuter and her unborn child in 2007.
In March, a Lake County jury convicted Marni Yang, 43, of killing Reuter and her unborn baby on Oct. 4, 2007. Prosecutors said Yang plotted to kill Reuter, the pregnant girlfriend of ex-Chicago Bear Shaun Gayle, to eliminate her as a romantic rival.
Yang received a life sentence for the murder, but Reuter’s family wanted a different kind of justice.
As CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports, Reuter’s family said their civil suit wasn’t about the money that the jury awarded, but about letting the world know just who Reuter really was.
Ted Woerthwein, the Reuter family’s attorney, acknowledged it’s unlikely the family will get all of the $40 million awarded by a Cook County jury on Wednesday.
“Well, we’re going to try, but I don’t think she’s worth $40 million,” Woerthwein said.
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But the Reuter family believed that enduring the pain of civil trial was worth it – even after yang had been sentenced to life in prison in criminal court.
“Ultimately, most of that case was about Marni Yang, as it should be. This was about the loss the family had,” Reuter family attorney Christopher Stombaugh said. “Somebody needed to hear the story of who Rhoni Reuter really was; not just as somebody who was the girlfriend of somebody who was a famous athlete, but somebody who was just an incredible, wonderful, person.”
Reuter’s mother tearfully told the jury that she no longer wants to go to bed at night or get up in the morning, because the agony of her loss is never-ending.
“The mother broke down only once when she was on the stand, crying, but a number of the jurors broke down and were crying right along with her. So, yeah, there was a lot of pain,” Woerthwein said.
The $40 million judgment also removes the possibility that Marni Yang will ever profit financially from her crimes. For example, if she ever chose to write a book or take part in a film project about the murder, all of her proceeds would go to the Reuter family to pay the judgment.