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'A story of someone snapping,' defense lawyer admits Richard Sotka's guilt in double homicide trial

An inside look at the second day of Richard Sotka's double homicide trial. Sotka's lawyer admits he killed two women during opening statements Wednesday.
Posted at 5:50 PM, Mar 06, 2024

GREEN BAY (NBC26) — During opening statements of Richard Sotka's double homicide trial, his lawyer admitted Sotka killed two women. But, the attorney said, they'll argue against the state's claim it was intentional.

  • Hear the 9-1-1 call when one of two women's bodies were found in a Green Bay home in Jan. 2023
  • Sotka's lawyer admits he killed two women during opening statements Wednesday
  • One victim's daughter who took the stand says her mother had been happy in her few-months-long romantic relationship with Sotka before she was killed

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

A double murder trial here at the Brown County courthouse. I'm Pari Apostolakos reporting in Green Bay where Richard Sotka's attorney told the jury he killed two women.

In a recording played for the courtroom, a 9-1-1 dispatcher asks "Do you think she's dead?"

"Yes. Yes, 100 percent," Emily Rudnick, a witness, replied.

"It's straightforward, it's simple," the prosecution said during opening statements. "This is a story of someone snapping."

Richard Sotka is charged with murdering his girlfriend Rhonda Cegelski and her friend Paula O'Connor in January 2023.

"We are not going to be arguing that any other person than Richard Sotka killed these two women. He did," said Sotka's attorney.

He said they won't argue he's not guilty, but about the intent to kill.

Rhonda's daughter Paige was the first witness to take the stand Wednesday. Reporters were asked not to take photos or videos of her.

Police say on Jan. 29th, 2023, she was the first person to see the body of her mother's longtime friend Paula O'Connor on the floor of the duplex where Rhonda lived.

The morning after a going away party for her job at Stadium View Bar, Restaurant and Event Hall, Paige had planned to drop off her dog, Piper, with her mother while she went to brunch with a friend, according to investigators.

When she walked into the house, she saw O'Connor's body, police said.

"I like shook her, tried to wake her up and that's when I noticed that there was a knife coming out of her neck," Paige said on the stand.

When Paige ran out of the house yelling, her friend, Emily Rudnick, called 9-1-1.

"I noticed she was face-down, I want to say on a pillow, with a pool of blood around her head," Rudnick said.

Green Bay Police Sgt. Michael Luberda said he was the first to get there after the 9-1-1 call. He found Rhonda lying on her back in the kitchen.

"There was nothing that I could do to help these women," said Luberda.

"This was an intentional act," the prosecution said. "These injuries all show that whoever did them ... did these with one purpose, and that purpose was to kill."

The trial continues here at the Brown County courthouse Thursday where the state will continue making their case. In Green Bay Pari Apostolakos NBC 26.