By Mike Heine/The Week
(Published March 7, 2007, 6:25 p.m.)
Two families, torn apart by a wife who murdered her husband and the father of her children, are one step closer to closing the door on a painful chapter of their lives.
Carol L. LaPorte, the 37-year-old Chicago woman who killed her husband, Anthony, inside the couple's Williams Bay condominium in September 2003, pleaded guilty Wednesday to homicide by negligent handling of a dangerous weapon. She will likely be jailed until late 2010 following her March 28 sentencing hearing.
During a physical fight following a night of drinking at a local bar, Carol LaPorte stabbed Anthony through the heart with a steak knife. Carol's actions left two girls, now ages 7 and 4, without a dad.
Carol has always claimed the stabbing was in self-defense. She was tried and convicted by a jury who believed it was no accident, spent 18 months in prison and granted a retrial last October since her trial attorney was ineffective.
With Wednesday's plea, there will be no painful retrial, Stilling said. Both families wanted the situation resolved so they could rebuild their lives and relationship with the children.
"What was first and foremost in everybody's mind was what is in the best interest of these little girls," defense attorney Kathleen Stilling said.
District Attorney Phil Koss, who said he was confident going to a retrial, agreed to a plea deal at the request of Anthony's family.
"The victim's family asked me to take this offer and not go ahead with the trial," Koss said. "It was their decision. I deferred to their decision because I know they are trying to get along with (Carol's) family and visitation was very important to them."
The agreement reduces a charge of first-degree reckless homicide to homicide by negligent use of a dangerous weapon, a felony. It also dismisses a charge of aggravated battery with the use of a dangerous weapon.
Both sides agreed to Carol spending a total of five years in prison and Stilling and Koss will argue for the appropriate length of extended supervision. Carol will receive credit for the 18 months already served in jail.
Stilling said Carol's two daughters understand their mother will be going away again for an extended period.
"This is still a very emotional situation for both families and for Carol and her children," Stilling said. "This is a very difficult time for both of them and that's why I felt it was wise to postpone sentencing for a little while; to give everybody a chance to take a deep breath and take in what's happened and then go on to the final (stage)."