A 56-year-old woman pleaded guilty but mentally ill Friday in stabbing her sister to death in Carpentersville in 2014 and faces up to 60 years in prison when sentenced in May.
Sandra Baumgartner, of Carpentersville, has been held at the Kane County jail since her arrest on first-degree murder, charging that she stabbed her sister, Sharon Baumgartner, 57.
She entered what is called a "cold" or "blind" plea in which a defendant admits guilt without having an agreement on punishment with prosecutors.
Instead, the sentence is in the hands of a judge, in this case, Linda Abrahamson, who will sentence Baumgartner on May 17.
Baumgartner's plea means she will still go to prison but have greater access to mental health services while incarcerated. She must serve 100 percent of any sentence, which has a range of 20 to 60 years in prison.
Kane County Assistant State's Attorney Joe Cullen said Baumgartner was suffering from schizo affective disorder, bipolar-type when she repeatedly stabbed her sister, Sharon, with a knife on Sept. 29, 2014.
Police said the murder occurred at an apartment on the 100 block of South Lincoln Avenue; the sisters lived in separate apartments in the same building.
"It's really a tragedy, It's a sad case," Cullen said outside of court.
Cullen could not comment on what lead to the stabbing, but said Baumgartner ran from the scene and hid in a nearby wooded area. She also threw away the murder weapon and discarded a sweatshirt she was wearing.
"The defendant was able to appreciate the criminality of her conduct," Cullen told the judge.
Friday's plea is different from not guilty by reason of insanity, where a defendant cannot tell right from wrong when a crime is committed and is sent to a mental institution instead of prison.
At her sentencing in May, attorneys will argue aggravating and mitigating factors before the judge.
One matter that is sure to come up is Baumgartner was found not guilty by reason of insanity of an April 2001 stabbing murder in Memphis, Tenn. and was sentenced to intensive outpatient treatment.
According to court records, Baumgartner's attorneys cited her history of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type, and said she was not able to appreciate the wrongfulness of her conduct when she stabbed Danie Morgan 120 times during an altercation in his apartment.
An appeals court reaffirmed in April 2013 that Baumgartner should remain in intensive outpatient treatment and live with her parents. The ruling came after numerous experts testified in a 2002 hearing that Baumgartner was not an immediate danger to society.