A Geneva woman pleaded guilty but mentally ill Thursday to charges she fatally poisoned her husband in 2016 and was sentenced to 22 years in prison.
Julia L. Gutierrez, 54, of the 0-99 block of Crissey Avenue, had been held without bond since her arrest and tried to take her own life at least once in Kane County jail, her attorney had said.
Kane County Judge D.J. Tegeler accepted the plea, which allows Gutierrez to have access to mental health services while in prison.
"Our family feels immense sorrow for what happened to our brother. Really there are no adjectives to describe how we feel," Rachel Mooney, sister of Eduardo Gutierrez, 53, said after the court hearing. "We have deep sadness for Julie."
According to prosecutors, on Jan. 28, 2016, Gutierrez spiked her husband's protein shake with an overdose of sedatives that had been prescribed to her.
Police went to the couple's Geneva home for a well-being check after a friend of Gutierrez in Rock City, Illinois, received a package in the mail containing $40,000, an unsigned check for $5,000 and a note from Julia Gutierrez saying: "Ed has been suffering so much. I have been holding on all this time and I can't do it anymore."
After an hour outside the home, police forced their way in and found Eduardo dead on the living room floor and Julia Gutierrez on the bathroom floor in a fetal position going in and out of consciousness.
"I love him so much. Please forgive me, God understands," read a note found at the home written by Julia Gutierrez, who was later diagnosed with somatic symptom disorder and depression, according to prosecutors. "No more pain for either of us."
Gutierrez tried a murder-suicide of her husband the same way in 2002, but no charges were brought because she complied with psychiatric treatment.
Lydia Pyecha, another of Eduardo's sisters, read a letter recalling her brother's dedication to his handyman business and being a loving role model for his nieces and nephews.
"(It) sickens us to think (Eduardo) let his guard down and started believing and trusting Julie. It cost him his life," Pyecha said. "His life was taken way too early. He was an outstanding citizen."
Gutierrez faced a prison term ranging from 20 to 60 years on the first-degree murder charges. She must serve the entire sentence and gets credit for the nearly 15 months she's been held since her arrest.
"Mrs. Gutierrez intentionally killed her husband," State's Attorney Joe McMahon said. "This plea and sentence will hold her accountable. However, this case highlights challenges our community often faces given the limited resources available to address mental health concerns."
Gutierrez also has been sued for wrongful death and negligence by Eduardo's estate. The lawsuit is next due to be heard May 25.