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Coronavirus kills convicted murderer

Stateville inmate died at Morris Hospital

Ronald Rice
Ronald Rice

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A convicted murderer serving an 80 year prison sentence at Stateville Correctional Center died of coronavirus at Morris Hospital, according to the Grundy County Coroner's Office.

Ronald Rice, 66, died at the hospital early Sunday morning, according to a statement released by the coroner's office.

Rice was the second Stateville inmate to die of coronavirus.

On Sunday, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike mentioned the second Stateville death and said there are currently 60 positive coronavirus cases among the prison's inmates.

The Illinois Department of Corrections lists only one Ronald Rice among its incarcerated inmates and current parolees. He is 66 years old and an inmate at Stateville Correctional Center on a medical furlough, according to the department of corrections.

In response to messages inquiring about Rice, department of corrections spokeswoman Lindsey Hess sent an email addressing Sunday's inmate death without identifying the prisoner.

"We are sad to report a second COVID-19 death at the Illinois Department of Corrections. A man in his 60's who was incarcerated at Stateville Correctional Center died Sunday at an outside hospital," Hess said in the email.

"To further support our efforts to safely quarantine men at Stateville, the facility is temporarily reopening its 'roundhouse,'" Hess said. Necessary repairs were made to the housing unit and it was thoroughly inspected by the Department of Public Health."

Rice was serving an 80 year prison sentence for the 1980 murder of an 11-year-old boy in Oak Forest.

The body of Edwin “Eddie” Gulbransen was found in a forest preserve near 158th Street and Ridgeland Avenue.

Rice – a former Navy medical corpsman – came forward at the time and told police he struck Gulbransen with his car and planned to take him to the hospital, but noticed he wasn’t breathing. Rice claimed he panicked and dumped the boy’s body in the woods.

Rice was charged only with leaving the scene of an accident and obstruction of justice, and was sentenced to six months in the Cook County Jail.

Later, while serving a 60-year prison sentence for kidnapping and raping a different 11-year-old boy at knifepoint, Rice boasted to his fellow inmates that he had molested and then killed Gulbransen, according to prison officials.

In 2008, department of corrections officials told authorities that Rice had repeatedly admitted to strangling Gulbransen. The Cook County Sheriff’s Cold Case unit reopened the investigation of Gulbransen's death and Rice was charged with murder.

Rice pleaded guilty to murdering Gulbransen.

Rice was scheduled to be released from prison and placed on parole in 2012 before he was sentenced to 80 years in prison for the murder of Gulbransen.

Gulbransen had been headed to the store to buy a carton of milk when he disappeared.

When Gulbransen did not return home from the store, his mother went searching for him and found his bike near 157th Street and Ridgeland Avenue

Gulbransen's body was discovered a few blocks from there four days later.

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