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Marni Yang guilty in murder of ex-Bear Shaun Gayle’s girlfriend

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Rhoni Reuter’s relatives were “overjoyed” after a Lake County jury on Tuesday quickly convicted Marni Yang of gunning down the pregnant Deerfield woman Yang viewed as a romantic rival.

But former Chicago Bear Shaun Gayle — Reuter’s long-time boyfriend and Yang’s sometime sex partner — said he’ll forever regret meeting Yang.

“I can’t find the words to convey the regret I’ll have for the rest of my life even knowing her,” Gayle said after the verdicts were read in a hushed Waukegan courtroom.

Jurors deliberated for about four hours before convicting the 43-year-old Yang of first-degree murder and the intentional homicide of an unborn child.

After plotting for months, an “obsessed” Yang gunned down Reuter on Oct. 4, 2007 because she viewed her as competition for Gayle’s affections, Lake County prosecutors told jurors before they began deliberating.

The 42-year-old Reuter was nearly seven months pregnant with a girl fathered by Gayle. She had already named the child Skylar Reyne.

Yang stood calmly between her attorneys as the verdicts that will send her to prison for life were delivered.

“We’re overjoyed with the jury’s verdict. Justice has been served,” said Thad Reuter, Rhoni Reuter’s younger brother.

Still, the verdict will not “bring back Rhoni and Skylar,” Thad Reuter said, surrounded by other family members. “They’ll always be missed in our lives, but they’ll always live with us in our hearts.”

Gayle acknowledged he and Rhoni Reuter hadn’t planned to have a child and said their relationship was not “in the best condition” when they learned in the summer of 2007 that she was pregnant.

“We were excited about raising our daughter,” Gayle said. “We hadn’t discussed where our relationship was going.”

Gayle acknowledged during the trial that he had a sporadic sexual relationship with Yang, including engaging in sex with her at his home the night before Rhoni Reuter was murdered.

Gayle said he never had any “indication of a plot or plan” by Yang to harm Reuter.

The guilty verdicts, meanwhile, brought him some comfort, he said.

“Now I feel Rhoni and the baby are at peace,” Gayle said, though he added: “I’ll always have regrets that Rhoni’s not here, and we don’t have a 3-year-old daughter.”

Gayle said he wore a wire for police several times while he met with Yang after the killing — a task he said was difficult for him.

None of Yang’s statements to Gayle were admitted at her trial.

Prosecutors Patricia Fix and Ari Fisz blasted Yang during their closing arguments for killing Rhoni Reuter and her baby in what they called a “very well-planned, carefully thought-out execution.”

Reuter was shot six times as she opened her kitchen door to leave for work — two of the bullets also struck her baby.

In two secretly recorded conversations in March 2009, Yang described the killings to her friend Christi Paschen — even describing how she fired a final bullet into Reuter as she lay dying.

“I took one last shot in the head, finished her off,” Yang said on a snippet of tape played for jurors before they began deliberating.

“The actions of the defendant were colder than I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Fix, a prosecutor for 18 years.

Defense attorneys William Hedrick and Jeffrey Learner left without commenting after the verdicts, but had argued earlier that prosecutors had no eyewitnesses or physical evidence linking Yang to the murder.

“This case is best characterized as a theory searching for evidence,’’ said Hedrick, who contended the taped conversations between Yang and Paschen amounted to two friends trying to “one up” each other in telling wild stories.

Outside the courthouse, jurors declined to comment, except for one woman juror.

“There were no winners in this case,” said the juror, who declined to be identified.

Yang faces a mandatory life sentence when she is sentenced next month by Judge Christopher Stride.

Contributing: Matt Kiefer

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