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posted: 6/11/2012 5:30 AM

Daughter tells of 'completely different' mom who killed 4-year-old

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  • Marci Webber kisses her daughter Maggie at Maggie's fourth birthday party in Elgin about a month before the child was slain.

      Marci Webber kisses her daughter Maggie at Maggie's fourth birthday party in Elgin about a month before the child was slain.
    courtesy of Mallory Webber

  • Marci and Maggie Webber celebrate Maggie's fourth birthday at an Elgin restaurant about a month before the child was slain.

      Marci and Maggie Webber celebrate Maggie's fourth birthday at an Elgin restaurant about a month before the child was slain.
    courtesy of Mallory Webber

  • Marci Webber with her daughters Mallory, top left, and Madison in a Christmas 2002 portrait.

      Marci Webber with her daughters Mallory, top left, and Madison in a Christmas 2002 portrait.
    courtesy of Mallory Webber

  • Mallory Webber

      Mallory Webber

  • Mallory Webber

      Mallory Webber

  • Mallory Webber, right, and her grandmother, Marjorie Webber, leave the DuPage County Courthouse last week. Mallory's mother, Marci Webber, was found not guilty by reason of insanity for the murder of her 4-year-old daughter in Bloomingdale.

       Mallory Webber, right, and her grandmother, Marjorie Webber, leave the DuPage County Courthouse last week. Mallory's mother, Marci Webber, was found not guilty by reason of insanity for the murder of her 4-year-old daughter in Bloomingdale.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

 

For much of her life, Mallory Webber felt like she had two mothers.

There's the mom who took her to swim with dolphins in North Carolina, who doted on her and taught her about the court system while cramming for law school.

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And then there's the mom who "floats in and out of reality," haunted by delusions of secret societies and evil cast upon her family.

It's been a tough life, Mallory said, but she wants the world to know Marci Webber isn't a monster.

"She tried her hardest to do everything within her power to make sure us kids were taken care of," Mallory, 19, said in a sit-down interview with the Daily Herald. "I know a completely different mom than everybody else."

The mother everybody else knows is the one who savagely killed her 4-year-old daughter Maggie in a fit of insanity two years ago in Bloomingdale. A DuPage County judge confirmed that Thursday, ruling that Marci Webber was not guilty of murder because she did not know right from wrong at the time.

For Mallory, who found her sister's body, that woman isn't her mom.

"I don't hold any anger against her because I really know it wasn't her. She never would have done that," the Woodstock teen said.

Maggie's murder on Nov. 3, 2010, marked a psychological tipping point for Webber, who had battled debilitating mental illness for much of her life.

During last week's one-day bench trial, psychologist Orest "Gene" Wasyliw testified Webber believed Maggie was going to be kidnapped by Satan and sold into sexual slavery.

In an irrational act of desperation and love, he said, Webber slashed the child's throat -- essentially to save her.

"She had a break with reality," Wasyliw testified. "Marci tried to protect her by killing her, which makes no sense. She didn't know what she was doing."

Webber, 45, grew up in Woodstock and after high school served two years in the Army stationed in Germany before she was honorably discharged. She went on to study art and, eventually, law in college.

Mallory's memories of growing up are a mishmash of difficult times, in different states, with different men who came in and out of her mom's life.

She said her mother battled alcoholism at times and went through a flurry of mental health professionals who offered varying diagnoses, from major depression and bipolar disorder to borderline personality disorder and psychosis.

But even with medication and therapy, her troubles persisted, and child welfare workers were often at her door.

Webber's condition was aggravated in the early 2000s, Mallory said, when she sued her former psychiatrist, accusing her of unethical and unprofessional conduct. She also was in and out of court over the years fighting for custody of her daughters.

Before the murder, Webber lived with Maggie in New York while her middle child, Madison, remained with her father. Mallory moved in with her grandmother to finish high school at Glenbard East in Lombard.

Mallory said the stress of the many wars her mother was waging apparently wore her down.

"I've known all my life there was something wrong with my mom; I just couldn't figure it out," she said. "Closer to the time of the incident, things started to come to a head."

Wasyliw, the psychologist, testified Webber became "obsessed" with her lawsuit and court cases, and was devastated when she learned the suit would not go to trial.

When police later searched her home in East Nassau, N.Y., he said, they found Webber had scrawled notes about the case all over her bathroom walls, "from floor to ceiling."

Just weeks before the murder, Webber and Maggie arrived unannounced in Bloomingdale, apparently looking for a fresh start.

"But mom came back from New York a completely different person," Mallory said.

She said her mother drifted back and forth from being loving and caring to an unrecognizable woman who believed people were following her in the grocery store and that her television was changing channels on its own.

A devout Catholic for much of her life, she also grew increasingly infatuated with religion and increasingly paranoid about secret societies and evil, Mallory said.

"But she was not so far different that I was concerned for anybody's safety," she said. "Mom had never beat us or hit us, none of that."

Mallory said she was planning to help her mother clean house on the day that will forever be etched into her memory.

She said she arrived at her grandmother's townhouse to find all the doors locked but managed to get inside. The house was eerily quiet, and her mom didn't respond to her calls. Then she heard a cough.

Mallory made her way upstairs.

"I was just hit with this ungodly smell that I will never forget," she said. "I followed it to the bathroom."

Mallory said she entered the room to find her mother lying on the floor and blood everywhere.

Mallory screamed, "What did you do?"

"And she put her finger up to her mouth and said, 'Shhh, the baby's sleeping,'" Mallory recalled.

Prosecutors said Maggie's throat had been cut so severely she was nearly decapitated. Police found her in a bathtub with a religious emblem around her toe. Written on the walls in blood were the words "divine mercy," "Satan," and "evil." Marci Webber also had slashed her own neck and wrists.

Looking back, Mallory says she blames the mental health system more for her sister's death than she does her mother.

She believes her mother was repeatedly misdiagnosed and shuffled in different directions by doctors who didn't appreciate the severity of her condition, or know how to treat it.

"Part of me also is upset that maybe she realized something was wrong, and she didn't tell anybody. I don't know. I can't hold it against her at this point," Mallory said. "She didn't want to hurt her."

Maggie was slain about a month after her 4th birthday. Mallory, whose eyes well up with tears when talking about Maggie, describes her sister as "the sweetest little thing in the world."

"She was really cute and just the nicest kid," she said. "She loved her mom a lot. They'd always do things together, like go to the park. They were together every single day."

Marci Webber calls Mallory practically every day from the DuPage County jail, Mallory said. Soon, Marci will be in a secured mental health facility operated by the Illinois Department of Human Services, where she will be for the foreseeable future.

"She cries about Maggie," Mallory said. "She's so heartbroken and wishes she could turn back time. She knows what she did and is incredibly sorry."

For Mallory, the future is no more certain than it ever has been.

She wants to return to college -- a plan interrupted by her sister's death -- and possibly write a book one day about her experience.

She also holds out hope that someday her mother will be well enough to come home to the family she loves.

"She deserves that," Mallory said.

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