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Homeless man admits to suffocating lover

A homeless man admitted Wednesday in Suffolk County Court that he suffocated his lover with a pillow during sex last year in a Riverhead motel.

Douglas Rico, 46, pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in the May 2011 death of Henrietta Sholl, 53. In return for the plea, Suffolk County Court Judge John Toomey Jr. promised to sentence Rico to no more than 7 years in prison, and would consider giving him a week out of jail to spend with his two younger children.

"My inclination would be to do that," Toomey said. "You face a lot of time if you don't come back."

The maximum sentence is 25 years in prison. The minimum sentence is 5 years.

The Suffolk district attorney's office, which opposes the deal Toomey made, offered 10 years. Rico is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 16.

In court, during questioning by Assistant District Attorney Todd Pettigrew, Rico admitted meeting Sholl, whom he'd met in a homeless shelter, at room 360 of the Budget Host East End motel. He said he put a pillow over her head and neck and ended up crushing her neck.

Defense attorney Daniel Russo of Westhampton Beach said it was a sad end to a strange case.

"He was an alcoholic who was in a bizarre relationship" with Sholl, Russo said.

His client was employed and married until drugs and alcohol derailed his life. He bonded with Sholl, who had severe drug and alcohol problems, Russo said.

Rico initially balked at taking the plea because he had to admit intending to cause serious physical injury to Sholl. Russo said his client denied trying to do that, but admitting it was the only way to take advantage of Toomey's offer.

If he'd gone to trial and had been convicted of the lesser charge of second-degree manslaughter, he could have ended up serving more time, Russo said.

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