MAN SENTENCED FOR 1980 MURDER OF
Thursday, August 5, 2010— Convicted child sex offender Ronald Rice has been sentenced to 80 years in prison for the 1980 murder of 11-year-old Edwin Gulbransen, Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced Thursday.
Rice, 54, formerly of Oak Forest, pled guilty to one count of murder Wednesday before Judge Douglas J. Simpson at the Markham Courthouse. Rice is already incarcerated for the sexual assault of another child, and had a projected parole date of October, 2012.
Rice attacked Gulbransen on Sunday, June 22nd, 1980, as the boy was riding his bike to a local convenience store in Oak Forest to pick up a carton of milk. When Gulbransen failed to return home within a half-hour, his mother went searching for him. She found his bicycle on the side of the road near 157th and Ridgeland Avenue, but there was no sign of her son.
Four days later, on June 26th, Gulbransen’s body was found in a forest preserve near 158th and Ridgleland. Rice soon came forward and told police he struck Gulbransen with his car and planned to take him to the hospital, but saw he wasn’t breathing. Rice claimed he panicked and dumped the boy’s body in the woods. At that time he was charged with leaving the scene of an accident and obstruction of justice and was sentenced to six months in the Cook County Jail.
Edward Gulbransen’s death made national headlines, and Rice told police he was distraught over the “accident”. Rice had no criminal record, and was a 26-year-old former medical corpsman in the U.S. Navy who had returned home to attend community college. But four years after Gulbransen’s death, Rice was convicted of aggravated kidnapping and deviant sexual assault of an 11-year-old boy at knifepoint, and was sentenced to 60 years in prison.
In the last ten years of his prison stay, Rice began bragging to corrections officers about sexually molesting and killing Gulbransen. In 2008, Sheriff’s police and Cook County State’s Attorney personnel learned from the Illinois Department of Corrections that Rice had repeatedly admitted to strangling Gulbransen to death. The Sheriff’s Police Cold Case Unit reopened the case, and following several months of investigation and interviews, Rice was charged with murder.
Sheriff Dart thanked the police investigators involved in the case, as well as those from the Illinois Department of Corrections and Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office whose work helped lead to Rice’s conviction and sentence. He expressed a special thanks to the Gulbransen family, who worked closely with detectives throughout the investigation.