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Former Oprah fashion designer sentenced to prison for stabbing death

Herbert Van Stephens |  Cook County Sheriff's office photo

Herbert Van Stephens | Cook County Sheriff's office photo

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Updated: March 6, 2013 4:58PM

A 53-year-old fashion designer who once dressed Oprah Winfrey was sentenced to prison Wednesday for fatally stabbing his boyfriend more than 50 times during a fight at their Lake View home.

Herbert Van Stephens, who police said had dressed Winfrey and guests on her show, was convicted in January of murdering 25-year-old John E. Atkinson and was sentenced to 39 years in prison Wednesday by Judge Vincent Gaughan, according to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office.

Prosecutors said Van Stephens and Atkinson, his boyfriend, were arguing in their home in the 600 block of West Stratford Place when Van Stephens picked up a knife and stabbed Atkinson multiple times about 11:25 p.m. March 5, 2012.

Atkinson was stabbed 30 times in the chest, piercing his heart and lungs, and 10 times in the abdomen area, court records show. He also was stabbed in the face, neck, arms, legs and had multiple defensive wounds to both hands and forearms.

Police said a third roommate called 911 after waking to the sounds of a struggle. When he came out of his bedroom, he found the couple fighting and both men stabbed, police said.

Paramedics found Atkinson lying on the ground and Van Stephens on his cell phone calling a relative, according to court records.

Van Stephens was hospitalized in critical condition after the fight, and police initially called the two “mutual combatants.”

A bloody knife with a six-inch blade was recovered at the scene, prosecutors said.

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