David Steeves did not want his teenage sons to see him in court before he went to prison for the cyanide poisoning that killed their mother.

But the anguish of the two boys was felt nevertheless in the Riverhead courtroom where their father was sentenced Monday to 19 years to life in prison for the 2008 death of his estranged wife, Maureen.

In letters written to State Supreme Court Justice Robert W. Doyle and read aloud, Steeves' sons, Michael, 17, and David, 15, said their lives will never be the same without their mother.

"My father has committed the most horrific crime I can imagine," Michael Steeves wrote in his letter, read by Assistant District Attorney Janet Albertson. "What my father did can never be forgiven or forgotten."

Steeves, 45, of Center Moriches, seemed to show no emotion as his sons' letters were read. He declined to speak before sentencing.

Steeves pleaded guilty June 4 to second-degree murder for giving Maureen Steeves, 41, of Manorville, a capsule laced with cyanide he bought off an Internet site. She died Oct. 31, 2008, about two weeks after her husband gave her the pill when she complained of a headache while cooking and cleaning at his home.

After poisoning his wife, Steeves took his sons to England to avoid police, then to Florida before being captured by federal marshals when he returned to New York, police said at the time.

Steeves' attorney, Craig McElwee of North Babylon, said his client hopes to someday explain his actions to his sons.

McElwee said Steeves pleaded guilty last month because, "He felt that he could not put his children through a trial." He added, "He decided to take responsibility for his actions."

At the time of his plea, Steeves insisted that his sons not be allowed to attend his sentencing. The boys were not in court Monday.

Albertson said Steeves will be eligible for parole after 17 years.

Police said Steeves killed his wife because he did not want to see her with another man. The couple, who were getting divorced, had broken up after the elder David Steeves revealed he was gay, police and family members said.

The sons are being raised by other family members.

In his letter, Michael Steeves said he and his brother play sports and participated in a talent show. "These are just a few of the things that my mother is missing," he wrote.

In another letter read by Albertson in court, Maureen Steeves' brother, Joseph Terrusa, called his sister's murder a "heinous act that is beyond any comprehension."Maureen Steeves' aunt, Sandra Berardini, of Centereach, said she cries when she passes Pinelawn Memorial Park, where the slain woman is buried.

"I know she is one of the angels looking over me," she said.

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