A former U.S. Navy recruiter who stabbed his pregnant wife to death in front of her 4-year-old daughter on the child’s birthday offered a brief apology Thursday for killing the woman and their unborn son.
“I think about what happened every day, and every day I want to go back and change it, but I can’t. I’m sorry,” Eric Gilford told a DuPage County judge during his sentencing hearing.
Gilford, 32, faces up to 140 years in prison when Judge Kathryn Creswell announces his sentence next week.
The former Downers Grove man pleaded guilty in June to first-degree murder and the intentional homicide of an unborn child for the May 26, 2010 slayings. His estranged wife, 34-year-old Kristine Courtney Gilford, was about 20 weeks pregnant with their son when she was murdered.
Eric Gilford used the Internet to track down his wife at the Villa Park apartment where she was staying with a former boyfriend after leaving him, authorities said. Gilford forced his way inside, then stabbed his wife 16 times with a hunting knife. Despite her massive injuries, she lived long enough to tell police her husband – who fled the state and wasn’t arrested for more than two months – was her attacker.
Her daughter, Gracie, was in the apartment and witnessed the killing – which occurred on her fourth birthday, authorities and family members said. She also identified Gilford to police as the “bad guy” who stabbed her mother.
The little girl was “deeply traumatized” by her mother’s murder, her grandfather said Thursday during Gilford’s sentencing hearing.
“Every birthday she celebrates will be a reminder of the day she saw the bad man stab her mother to death in front of her,” Dennis Courtney, Kristine’s father said. “This is a horrendous picture to carry throughout her life.”
Family members want justice for Kristine and her unborn son, Courtney said, calling him “a child we will never be able to know or love.”
“Our grief is so deep that it will be with us every day. It is a pain that will continually tear at our hearts,” Courtney said.
Gilford has a history of psychological problems that he downplayed or struggled to hide so he wouldn’t jeopardize his naval career, said Ricky Holman. an assistant public defender reprsenting him, but he had never acted violently towards anyone.
Holman asked for a prison term that would allow Gilford the possibility of being released “at an elderly age.”
Prosecutor David Bayer asked Creswell to impose the maximum prison term on Gilford.
“He should be in jail until he dies,” Bayer said.