Former Ivy League Professor Sentenced 5-10 Years For Beating Wife to Death

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A former Ivy League professor was sentenced to five to 10 years in prison Wednesday for fatally beating his wife with a chin-up bar while she wrapped Christmas presents in their kitchen.

Rafael Robb, 58, said in court that there was no justification for his "horrific misdeed."

"It occurred in a moment of madness, none of it planned nor stoppable," Robb said. "More than anyone, I scarred our daughter Olivia for life. I can't imagine what goes through her mind when she is asked about her parents."

Robb, who used to be a tenured economics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter a year ago.

He admitted he "just lost it" during an argument that erupted at the couple's Upper Merion Township home in December 2006. Ellen Robb had been planning to end their 16-year marriage, and her husband feared he would see less of their daughter and possibly suffer financially if they divorced.

The couple began fighting over the schedule of a mother-daughter trip to Boston that had been planned for the school break. After the attack — in which Ellen Robb was so badly bludgeoned that investigators initially thought she had been shot in the face — Robb staged a burglary and ditched the murder weapon in Philadelphia.

Montgomery County Judge Paul Tressler said Wednesday he had been weighing a lighter sentence for Robb but decided against it after learning of a letter the former professor recently sent to his daughter.

In it, Robb wrote he would not send Olivia a Christmas present until she sent him her report card and a school photo, the judge said. Tressler said he did not want Robb manipulating his daughter.

The girl is being raised by a maternal uncle.