News - McHenry County

Spring Grove wife killer wants shorter sentence, claims errors by judge, ineffective counsel

A Spring Grove man, who is a former Chicago police officer sentenced to 50 years in prison for killing his wife, could have his sentence vacated and be granted a new sentencing hearing, according to a decision by the 2nd District Appellate Court.

On Jan. 15, 2020, following a bench trial, McHenry County Judge Michael Coppedge found Lorin Volberding, 76, guilty of the first-degree murder of his wife, Elizabeth Volberding, also a former Chicago police officer.

Volberding shot his wife one time in the neck on Feb. 3, 2017. He then called his neighbors and said “I think I just shot and killed Liz. ... Do what you gotta do ... I couldn’t handle it anymore,” according to the decision filed in the McHenry County courthouse.

He killed his wife of about 16 years on what was her 68th birthday, according to court documents.

Volberding alleges that Coppedge erred in not conducting a preliminary “Krankel” hearing when, prior to his sentencing, his defense lawyer, the now-retired Henry Sugden, filed a motion to withdraw as his attorney.

Coppedge denied Sugden’s motion despite Sugden saying he was withdrawing because Volberding claimed he received “ineffective counsel” that resulted in his conviction.

Volberding told Sugden he “did not do a good job and that he failed to provide a defense,” according to the decision.

A Krankel hearing is “a term of art to describe the hearing the court must conduct when a defendant pro se (on his own behalf) has raised a post-trial claim regarding his counsel’s ineffective assistance,” according to Illinois Case Law.

In response, the state argued that Volberding’s assertions were “speculative [and] vague.”

“There was no indication what other defenses the defendant believed could have been raised; the state contends the defense counsel’s statements were not sufficient to trigger Krankel,” the state argued, according to the decision.

However, the appeals court determined there was enough concern to remand the case and trigger a Krankel hearing, according to the decision.

The appellate court also upheld Volberding’s argument that Coppedge considered “improper aggravating factors” when determining his sentence.

Volberding claims Coppedge’s sentencing referred to an incident while he was jailed as a felony conviction occurring during Volberding’s pre-trial release. But Volberding had been in custody from the day of his arrest until his trial.

It was determined Coppedge was referring to an incident in McHenry County Jail where Volberding was being held pre-trial when he was charged with aggravated battery of a peace officer, a Class 2 felony, according to documents in the McHenry County courthouse. This charge was dismissed after Volberding’s murder conviction, according to court documents.

The appellate court vacated Volberding’s sentence and remanded back to the trial court on the issue.

The first part of a Krankel hearing is set for Aug. 10. Volberding, housed at Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, will be returned to McHenry County Jail and will appear in court during the hearing.