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Doctor Sentenced in Estranged Wife’s Death

March 30, 2004 GMT

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) _ A heart surgeon convicted of killing his estranged wife was sentenced Monday to life in prison without parole.

Dr. Richard W. Illes Sr., who maintained his innocence repeatedly at Monday’s hearing, was convicted of murdering Miriam Zambie Illes in January 1999.

At the time of the killing, the couple was in the midst of bitter divorce proceedings, including a custody fight over their son.

The doctor was a suspect almost from the start, but police didn’t have enough evidence for an arrest warrant until December 2002.

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Illes, 46, called accusations that he had planted evidence pointing to his innocence ``ridiculous,″ and told the judge that any other court in the country would have dismissed the case.

Illes also exchanged words in the courtroom with Miriam Illes’ older brother, Joseph Zambie. ``We gave you our sister and you murdered her,″ Zambie told him.

Police found prints in the snow from basketball shoes, and a homemade silencer was found near the back of the house where Miriam Zambie Illes died.

In June 1999, a .22-caliber rifle matching one once owned by Illes’ father was found in a rural area of Lycoming County. Nine months later, a search in the same area turned up a pair of shoes with fibers that matched those found in a vacuum cleaner at one of Illes’ homes, prosecutors said.