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Award-winning fashion designer gets 39 years in boyfriend's slaying

An award-winning fashion designer for Oprah Winfrey, Lena Horne and Will Smith has been sentenced to 39 years in prison for the murder of his boyfriend in their Lakeview apartment last year.

Herbert Van Stephens, 53, was convicted of first-degree murder in January for the fatal stabbing of John E. Atkinson, 24, in the 600 block of West Stratford Place on March 5, 2012. He was sentenced Wednesday by Judge Vincent Gaughan.

The two men were arguing when Van Stephens stabbed Atkinson repeatedly with a knife. As Atkinson lay on the floor, Van Stephens spoke to a relative on his cell phone, prosecutors said. A bloody knife with a six-inch blade was found at the scene.

Atkinson was taken to Advocate Illinois Masonic Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

An autopsy found he had been stabbed more than 50 times, including 30 times in the chest -- piercing Atkinson's heart and lungs --  10 times in the abdomen and wounds to his back, legs and face. He also suffered several defensive wounds, prosecutors said.

Van Stephens was also injured in the attack. His public defender, Ruth McBeth, argued during the trial that he was acting in self-defense.

In a 2002 Chicago Tribune interview, Van Stephens was noted for having clothed Winfrey, Horne and Smith. At the time, he was one of six local designers who won a competition to have their items displayed and sold at the former Marshall Fields.

chicagobreaking@tribune.com

Twitter: @ChicagoBreaking

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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