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Homeless man sentenced in death of lover

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.

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.

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

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