Homeless man sentenced in death of lover

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A homeless man who suffocated his lover during sex in a Riverhead motel was sentenced Monday to 6 years in prison.

It was a sentence that left both the defendant, Douglas Rico, 46, and the Suffolk district attorney's office dissatisfied.

Rico pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in October in the death of Henrietta Sholl, 53. In return, Suffolk County Court Judge John Toomey Jr. promised a sentence of no more than 7 years and said he was inclined to grant Rico a week of freedom to spend with his children before going upstate to prison.

However, Toomey later decided Rico should not spend a week out of custody. Rico then asked to withdraw his guilty plea, but Toomey refused.

"The whole thing is a tragic story," said defense attorney Daniel Russo of Westhampton Beach. "They were very much in love." Until his guilty plea, Rico had said that Sholl's death was accidental.

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Both Rico and Sholl had left families while in the throes of drug and alcohol addiction and fell in love after meeting in a homeless shelter, Russo said.

Assistant District Attorney Todd Pettigrew said his office had wanted Rico to serve 10 years in prison for crushing Sholl's neck with a pillow in room 360 of the Budget Host East End Motel, a short walk from the criminal courthouse. The maximum sentence is 25 years.

In court Monday, Pettigrew read a letter from Sholl's sister, who said she misses Sholl as she does her best to raise Sholl's autistic son.

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"No human being deserves to die in such a brutal manner," the sister wrote.

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