After his pregnant wife refused to reconcile and return home with him, U.S. Navy recruiter Eric Gilford stabbed her 16 times with a hunting knife as her terrified young daughter watched.
Then, Gilford placed the little girl – who was celebrating her fourth birthday – on the body of her dying mother, 34-year-old Kristine Courtney Gilford.
Before sentencing Eric Gilford to 100 years in prison, DuPage County Judge Kathryn Creswell on Wednesday ripped the hulking 210-pound sailor for the brutal attack that killed his estranged wife and their unborn son, but also traumatized the young girl who witnessed the slayings.
“It is impossible to imagine the anguish this young mother felt as she gasped for her last breath as her 4-year-old daughter looked on,” Creswell said.
The little girl – found blood-spattered but unharmed in the Villa Park apartment where Kristine Gilford was slain – will be forced every year to recall the tragedy of her mother’s murder, Creswell said.
“For the rest of her life, each birthday will be a sad anniversary of her mother’s death,” Creswell said.
The judge sentenced the Downers Grove man to 50 years in prison for murdering Kristine Gilford, who was about 20 weeks pregnant with a son when she was killed on May 26, 2010.
Creswell gave Gilford another 50 years in prison for intentional homicide of an unborn child.
The two sentences must be served consecutively, meaning the 32-year-old Gilford will have to serve about 92 years in prison before he can be released. Kristine Gilford’s father, Dennis Courtney, said the family is relieved Eric Gilford will spend the rest of his life in prison.
“We’re basically pleased with the sentence because he’s not going to survive that long,” Courtney said after the sentencing.
He said Kristine’s daughter, Gracie, generally is doing well but still has nightmares and is receiving psychological counseling.
“We’re pleased the judge took into account how this will affect Gracie,” Courtney said, describing his granddaughter as “a bright, precocious, active child.”
Gilford spoke only when Creswell asked him if he understood that he has the right to appeal her sentence.
“Yes, ma’am,” he said politely.
Gilford has a history of psychological problems that he downplayed or struggled to hide so he would not jeopardize his naval career, but had never acted violently toward anyone, defense attorney Ricky Holman had argued during his sentencing.