BRIDGEVIEW (CBS) — A U.S. Army veteran who had recently returned from the war in Iraq when he killed his wife in their southwest suburban home has been sentenced to 17 years in prison.

In a courtroom full of his relatives and in-laws, Joseph Jesk, 24, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Wednesday, according to his attorney. Judge John J. Hynes then sentenced him, attorney Michael Clancy said.

Jesk had been indicted on six counts of first-degree murder in the shooting of his wife, Heather, but the second-degree conviction means he’ll serve about six years in addition to the time he’s already spent in jail awaiting trial, Clancy said.

He and Heather argued in the basement of their home in the 4600 block of 101st Street in Oak Lawn on Feb. 27, 2010, after attending a fundraiser with other family members.

One of the guests followed the couple downstairs about 10:40 p.m. and saw Jesk holding a handgun, prosecutors said. That man ran upstairs fearing for his safety, prosecutors said.

Seconds later, Jesk fired at his wife’s forehead, leaving her in a pool of blood before running out a side door, prosecutors said. The couple’s daughters, then ages 11 months and 2 years, were not home during the shooting, officials said.

After the incident, Jesk called 911 telling police he’d “killed the only person he’d ever loved,” authorities said.

He was found with a folding knife near the Oak Lawn Metra station on 95th Street, police said.

Jesk had returned the month before from an 11-month tour of duty as a heavy artillery officer with the Army.

“Joe had had some problems coming back to normal life after being in Iraq and serving,” Clancy said. “It made for a pretty stressful home life and he and his wife were having some issues.”

Jesk, who Clancy said started dating Heather in junior high school, apologized to her family, their two daughters and the judge.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2011. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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