A 57-year-old woman was sentenced to 25 years in prison Thursday after pleading guilty, but mentally ill, in the fatal 2014 stabbing of her sister.
Sandra L. Baumgartner of Carpentersville faced a prison term of 20 to 60 years for the first-degree murder of her sister, Sharon Baumgartner, 57, also of Carpentersville; the two lived in separate apartments in the same building on the 100 block of Lincoln Avenue.
Earlier this year, Baumgartner entered a "blind" or "cold" plea in which she did not agree with prosecutors on a prison term and instead left the decision to Kane County Judge Linda Abrahamson.
According to police and prosecutors, Sandra Baumgartner. who suffers from schizo affective disorder, bipolar-type, stabbed her sister 26 times while inside the building in September 2014, then ran and hid in a nearby wooded area. She also threw away the knife and sweatshirt she was wearing -- showing she could distinguish right from wrong and the criminality of her conduct at the time.
Kane County Assistant State's Attorney Joe Cullen pushed for a 25-year term, stressing that Baumgartner was found not guilty by reason of insanity of the 2001 murder of a man in Memphis, Tennessee, who was stabbed more than 100 times.
"When the medication changed, her ability to deal with her mental illness degraded dangerously," said Cullen, noting Baumgartner was sentenced to intensive outpatient treatment and ordered to live with her parents, who are now deceased.
Before the 2014 murder, Sandra Baumgartner was living in Carpentersville and receiving treatment at the Ecker Center in Elgin, Cullen said. Doctors altered Baumgartner's medication, leading Sharon to report her concerns to Ecker officials, whose corrective actions were too late.
"Twice now there have been disastrous results and it's all too likely it can happen again," Cullen said.
Defense attorney Marc Wolfe argued for a 20-year term, saying Sharon's murder was sudden and not premeditated. Sandra Baumgartner also apologized to her sister's friends and family for the "horrible tragedy."
"If I could change things, I would, but I can't. I want everyone to know that I am sorry," she said.
Abrahamson also read through a batch of confidential fitness reports, sanity evaluations and psychiatric exams in making her decision and noted Baumgartner was "very medication responsive."
"Any kind of change (in medication) doesn't necessarily work out well for you," Abrahamson said. "Community safety is definitely an issue I must consider."
Baumgartner must serve her full prison sentence and will have access to mental health services while incarcerated.