A woman accused of killing her 4-year-old daughter in Bloomingdale was found not guilty by reason of insanity Thursday after a psychologist testified she suffered from paranoid delusions.
Marci Webber, 45, was acquitted of first-degree murder in the Nov. 3, 2010, slaying of her daughter Maggie. DuPage County Judge George Bakalis said Webber clearly loved the child but appeared driven to kill by her psychosis.
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"Love can be a very nurturing thing," he said. "Love, when combined with paranoia, can be very destructive."
Webber will be referred to the Department of Human Services for psychiatric confinement of up to 100 years, which is the maximum prison term she would have faced if convicted.
Her 19-year-old daughter, Mallory, said the judge's ruling was an accurate portrayal of her mother, who had a long history of mental illness and grew increasingly delusional in the months before the murder.
"I know a completely different mom than everybody else does, and I know my mom wouldn't have done this if she wasn't insane," she said. "It's very unfortunate the mental health system failed her."
Forensic psychologist Orest "Gene" Wasyliw testified that Webber appeared to have suffered a "break with reality" when she slashed her daughter's throat at a relative's home in Bloomingdale before turning the knife on herself.
Police arrived later to find Webber had written in blood the words "divine mercy," "Satan" and "evil" on the walls surrounding the crime scene. Assistant State's Attorney Tim Diamond said the victim was cut so deeply, "it appeared (she) was nearly decapitated."
Webber later told police that secret societies were out to kill her, and she needed to protect her daughter from being kidnapped by the devil and sold into sexual slavery.
"She believed she was actually protecting Maggie, not hurting her," Senior Assistant Public Defender Jill Eckhaus said in closing arguments.
Wasyliw said Webber, formerly of Woodstock, had a history of severe depression but at one time was a functioning person. She served in the Army for two years and attended law school in New York off and on, though she had been through a series of "tempestuous" relationships.
He said her breakdown came after losing child-custody battles for her two older daughters. She also became obsessed with religion, and obsessed with a lawsuit she had filed against a former psychiatrist.
As her mental state worsened, Wasyliw said, she began having paranoid delusions about people spying on her from cars passing by, the television changing stations on its own, and the radio playing the same song repeatedly.
"Everything around her seemed to be threatening, everything she saw," Wasyliw testified. "In her irrational mind, killing (Maggie) might have been saving her."
Webber, who has been under psychiatric care since her arrest, appeared lucid in court Thursday, sniffling and wiping her eyes occasionally during the proceedings.
Public Defender Jeff York said Webber will be assessed for a psychiatric treatment plan, and her mental health will be reviewed every two months while she's in custody.
"We believed from the beginning she was insane," he said. "Prison isn't the place for her. She needs treatment."