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Crime News Dateline

Chicago Bears Star's Pregnant Girlfriend Is Murdered, Killer Caught with Help from Psychic Friend

Rhoni Reuter was just weeks away from giving birth to a daughter when she was gunned down in her condo on October 4, 2007. 

By Jill Sederstrom

After nearly two decades of dating one-time Chicago Bears star Shaun Gayle, Rhoni Reuter was ecstatic to be expecting a baby with the former football pro. 

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But Rhoni’s dreams of becoming a mother would never materialize after the 42-year-old was chillingly gunned down in her Deerfield, Illinois condo in what appeared to be a targeted attack, according to Dateline: Secrets Uncovered

The cold-blooded murder left police wondering: Who could have wanted the kind and compassionate Rhoni dead? 

Rhoni Reuter and Shaun Gayle's Relationship

Investigators took a hard look at Gayle himself and the many women in his orbit at the time of Rhoni’s death — including one jilted lover who was seemingly sending bizarre letters to the women Gayle dated to warn them of his womanizing ways.

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Although Rhoni and Gayle had been dating for 17 years after meeting at a charity event in 1990, they never married or lived together and had what many would consider an unconventional relationship. 

Rhoni’s sister-in-law Anna Reuter told Dateline correspondent Rob Stafford it wasn’t that Rhoni — who worked two jobs including a part-time position at Macy’s — hadn’t dreamed of marriage and a family, but Gayle, a member of the Super Bowl-winning 1985 Chicago Bears team, continued to want to play the field and they agreed to have an open relationship. 

“I’d say, ‘What is it about him?’ and she’d say, ‘I don’t know what to tell you, Anna. I just love him,’” Anna recalled.  

Although they never lived together, the couple were frequent fixtures in each other’s lives. 

“For the most part they were just together all the time,” Anna said. “They talked every day on the phone. They took trips together.” 

When Rhoni found out she was pregnant with a daughter she had planned to name Skylar, according to Chicago’s Fox 32,  her family said she was thrilled. 

“That was the happiest I’d ever seen my sister in my life,” her brother Wayde told Dateline: Secrets Uncovered. “She was just glowing.” 

How Was Rhoni Reuter Killed?

But just weeks before Rhoni was due to give birth, she was repeatedly shot to death in her Deerfield condo on October 4, 2007. 

Her brother Thad would later tell Fox 32 that the killer shot Rhoni “twice in the abdomen to kill Skylar and then shot my sister in the back of the head.”

Just moments after the gunfire, Rhoni’s concerned neighbor left her a frantic message. 

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Are you ok? I — I heard a woman screaming and — pretty loud and then it got quiet,” the neighbor said in the message. “Would you give me a call please?” 

When Rhoni never called her back, the woman called 911. By the time police arrived, the mom-to-be was dead.

“You could still smell the odor of gunpowder,” Deerfield Police Detective Vince Nichols told Dateline: Secrets Uncovered. “No immediate signs of a struggle.” 

In homicide cases, it’s no surprise that investigators often take a close look at the victim’s significant other, but before detectives could track Gayle down he called into the police station himself after being contacted by the media.

“I’ve been getting calls from  — the — the — the media. This is Shaun Gayle and they’re trying to say — they’re naming me as a suspect,” he said before asking, “Was it Rhoni Reuter? Is she OK?”

When the officer told Gayle she hadn’t survived, the former football star broke down in sobs. 

“No!” he screamed. 

The emotion was still visible when detectives sat down with him at the Deerfield Police station a few minutes later. 

He told investigators that at the time of the shooting, he had been planning to go to a physical therapy appointment but when he got there early he got a haircut nearby instead. The alibi was backed up by the barber and surveillance footage captured his vehicle leaving his apartment around that time.

He had no evidence of gunshot residue on his hands, eliminating him as the shooter.

Investigation into Rhoni Reuter's Murder

Investigators still believe the killing could be connected to someone Gayle knew and decided to dive into his complicated love life.

Gayle himself provided police with one possible suspect, a Polish fitness trainer named Monika Kurowska, who Gayle met at a Bears event. The two dated for nine months but when Kurowska — who told Dateline she believed they were in a monogamous relationship — stopped by his place unexpectedly one night and saw him through the window with another woman, she was enraged. 

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“I was very angry. I don’t think I was ever cheated by anybody. It was shocking for me,” Kurowska said.

Kurowska said the relationship ended that night, but a few weeks later, the women connected to Gayle started getting letters describing how he was dating other women and trying to convince them to stop seeing him. Gayle got an order of protection against Kurowska, but the letters continued for more than a year. One letter was even in Rhoni’s purse the day she died.

Marni Yang Is Arrested

Marni Yang mugshot.

Police also got several tips about another woman in Gayle’s life, Marni Yang, an aspiring fitness model and mom of three.

“The information they were leaving was that she would be an individual capable of doing something like this because of the relationship she had with Shaun Gayle,” Police Chief John Sliozis said. 

One former friend of Yang’s told police the real estate agent often bragged about being in a relationship with Gayle and allegedly claimed to have hacked into his email account to write those letters to the women in his life. 

“Marni bragged to her how Monika was the one getting in trouble for all this and now Monika might be deported. She laughed about it,” Deerfield Police Detective Juan Mazariego said. “That just told us that she was very vindictive and she would do anything to get anybody out of the way.” 

After confiscating the trash outside her house, police discovered a bank statement which showed she’d been paying for background checks on other women Gayle was dating.

Kurowska was cleared of any wrongdoing as the focus on Yang began to intensify. Police learned that before the shooting, Yang had Googled a map to Rhoni’s home on her work computer and had purchased two books on how to make a silencer just two months before the murder.

In a police interview, Yang told investigators she once owned a .9mm gun, the same type used to kill Rhoni, but claimed it had gone missing. 

“I did not make a police report because I had no homeowner’s insurance at the time,” she said.

At the time of the murder, she claimed she had been at home because she was having car trouble. But her own son would later tell police she had not been home that morning, and even suspected she could be involved in the killing.

“For a son to do that, I think every investigator was thinking, that’s an honest response,” Sliozis said. 

Investigators also later uncovered a receipt that linked her to the rental of a black Volkswagen Rabbit, seemingly spotted in surveillance footage at a gas station near Rhoni’s home the morning of the murder. The phone number listed on the rental form was linked to a disposable cell phone Yang had purchased with cash a week before the shooting and call records placed her in Deerfield that day.

But perhaps the most damaging evidence came from a secretly recorded conversation between Yang and her close friend Christi Paschen, a psychic who had known Yang for 15 years and eventually agreed to help police. 

During an outing at a local restaurant, Yang confessed to putting the gun in a bucket of concrete and throwing it in a dumpster and then described how she wore a disguise to kill Rhoni.

“I had a wig. I had dark sunglasses this big covering my face—a hoodie on. OK? I had dark makeup on my face and I had gloves on,” she said. “She opened up the door—she started screaming. I took — took the first shot.”

It was enough to arrest Yang, who was later convicted and sentenced to two life sentences. 

Yang made a push to try to get a new trial in 2021, arguing that her confession had been a lie after she believed police were looking at her son as a suspect, WLS reports.