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  • Green Bay Press-Gazette

    Green Bay man given 2 life sentences, no chance of parole for 2023 double homicide

    By Kelli Arseneau, Appleton Post-Crescent,


    GREEN BAY – Before he was sentenced for the January 2023 fatal stabbings of Rhonda Cegelski and Paula O'Connor, Richard Sotka told the courtroom he did not feel remorse.

    "Everybody wants Richard Sotka to be accountable, to show remorse. I feel nothing. I did what I had to do. I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel remorse for protecting myself," Sotka read from a prepared statement.

    Sotka, 49, of Green Bay, was convicted of two counts of first-degree intentional homicide after a jury trial in March. The jury also found him guilty of one count of criminal damage to property, three counts of felony bail jumping and two counts of misdemeanor bail jumping.

    At Sotka's sentencing hearing Monday afternoon, Brown County Circuit Court Judge Beau Liegeois sentenced Sotka to the maximum penalty on all counts. Sotka is not eligible to ever be released from prison.

    "The brutality of the two murders in this case — I mean, it’s hard to visualize something even more horrific than what happened in this," Liegeois said.

    In his statement to the court, Sotka said he intends to appeal his conviction and stated he killed the two women because he feared for his life.

    It's very different from what he told investigators after his arrest — that he killed Cegelski, his then-girlfriend, and O'Connor, her best friend, after he saw them kissing during a night of heavy drinking and he felt jealous and humiliated and "just snapped."

    A double homicide

    Cegelski, 58, of Green Bay, and O'Connor, 53, of Bellevue, were best friends and hairstylists in Green Bay.

    On the morning of Jan. 29, 2023, Cegelski's daughter and a friend walked into the residence where Cegelski lived with Sotka, in the 1600 block of Elkay Lane in Green Bay.

    They found O'Connor dead, partially clothed and with a knife in her neck.

    They contacted police. Law enforcement arrived and found Cegelski dead in the kitchen. Both women had suffered numerous stab wounds to their necks and blunt force trauma.

    At the time of the murders, Sotka was wearing a GPS monitor because he was out on bond for charges in three cases in Oconto County related to stalking, violating a restraining order, domestic abuse battery and disorderly conduct. Law enforcement determined Sotka's GPS last showed him moving in the early morning hours of Jan. 29, 2023, and investigators found the monitor in a ditch between southbound Interstate 41 and the Freedom Road exit ramp in Lawrence, according to a criminal complaint.

    Sotka drove a truck that belonged to his employer, and the vehicle had location tracking abilities. Investigators found Sotka was driving in Arkansas, and contacted local law enforcement there to arrest him, Brown County Deputy District Attorney Dana Johnson said at the trial in March.

    Sotka had a passport and $4,000 in cash on him at the time of his arrest.

    In a police interview, Sotka admitted to killing Cegelski and O'Connor. He said he snapped similarly about 20 years ago, when he assaulted a woman he was dating and sent her to the hospital with a broken leg, fractured skull and knocked-out teeth. The woman testified during his trial.

    Sotka also told investigators he believed he took a shower before leaving Green Bay and driving south.

    According to the complaint, Sotka told investigators "he wasn't going to try and take this situation to trial" and said he would "go right to a judge and sit in his chambers and say he was guilty, 'give me double life.'"

    However, at trial, Sotka's attorneys claimed he had not intended to kill the two women and tried to get the jury to find him guilty of a lesser charge of first-degree reckless homicide. And attorneys said in the pre-sentence investigation, Sotka claimed he killed the women in self-defense.

    Family addressed their loved one's killer

    Four people shared victim impact statements, addressed directly to Sotka, whom most of them had gotten to know while he dated Cegelski.

    Cegelski's mother, daughter, brother and O'Connor's ex-husband — and father of her children — all gave a statement at the sentencing hearing.

    Most of the words were filled with anger at the man who killed their loved ones.

    "We wish nothing but horrific fortune for you. Sorry, that's just the way it is. Maybe over time, forgiveness can come, but it's not here today," O'Connor's ex-husband said.

    Cegelski's daughter noted that Sotka made her mother laugh and helped out around the house — all before brutally killing her.

    Cegelski's mother pointed out how beloved her daughter was by their friends, family and community. She noted that more than 500 people showed up to Cegelski's celebration of life.

    "I just want you to know my daughter left a wonderful legacy," she said. "And I think Rich left a legacy of destruction. And in the end he destroyed himself."

    Back-to-back life sentences

    A single count of first-degree intentional homicide carries a mandatory life sentence — Liegeois' primary decision to make for Sotka's sentence was whether or not Sotka would ever be eligible for release on extended supervision — and if so, when.

    Brown County Deputy District Attorney Dana Johnson requested Sotka never be able to be released from prison, while Sotka's attorney, Stephanie Rock, asked Liegeois to consider giving Sotka the possibility of release at some point.

    Liegeois sentenced Sotka to two consecutive life sentences, with no possibility of parole. On his other charges, Sotka was sentenced to the maximum for each, all to run consecutively to each other: three years initial confinement plus three years extended supervision for each felony bail jumping count, and nine months in jail on each misdemeanor count.

    Because one of the homicide counts was domestic abuse, Sotka will be charged an additional fee.

    Liegeois also ordered Sotka pay more than $16,000 in restitution, and that half of his money earned in prison goes toward restitution.

    The judge pointed out Sotka's inability to take accountability or show remorse, and said the way he continues to speak poorly of his former girlfriend after killing her is "classic domestic abuser talk."

    “You basically destroyed these two families by taking these two individuals’ lives," Liegeois told Sotka. "This is somebody who was a daughter, a sister, a friend, a mother and a grandmother even, who you basically just wiped off the face of the earth because you felt a little bit insulted. It’s really shocking to the conscience to hear you talk that way.”

    Contact Kelli Arseneau at 920-213-3721 or Follow her on X, formerly Twitter, at @ArseneauKelli.

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