Mother on killing her disabled daughter: 'She stayed asleep'

On the day she adopted her daughter Courtney, Bonnie Liltz made a promise.

“I made a promise to the judge that I would be the best mom I could be,” Liltz said. “I made a promise to Courtney and I made a promise to God. ... To me she was a gift.”

For more than two decades, the single mom from Schaumburg cared for Courtney, who had cerebral palsy, could not walk or talk, and required 24-hour care.

But on May 27, 2015, Liltz fed her daughter a combination of prescription and over-the-counter drugs and then tried to kill herself. Liltz, who battled cancer and other serious health issues, said she thought she was dying and had no other choice.

Courtney, then 28, died. Liltz survived. And if her attorney's campaign for mercy fails, Liltz will spend the next couple of years behind bars.

In an interview Monday, Liltz, who is out on bail, spoke of her life with Courtney, the three months she spent in prison and the possibility she'll return there.

Though initially charged with murder, Liltz pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. Arguing “all life is precious,” Cook County Judge Joel Greenblatt rejected prosecutors' recommendation for probation and sentenced her to four years in prison. Liltz's attorneys fought back, saying the Illinois Department of Corrections is unable to provide Liltz with proper treatment and incarceration is tantamount to a death sentence.

The Illinois Supreme Court declined to hear the case. Now Liltz's attorney, Tom Glasgow, says he will appeal to Gov. Bruce Rauner for a commutation.

Greenblatt would not comment Monday. A spokeswoman from the Cook County state's attorney's office also declined to comment.

“I miss her,” Liltz said. “I miss her laugh, her smile, her excitement. ... I miss her immensely and I don't think you ever get over that.”

An edited transcript of the interview follows:

Q. What were you thinking at the time of Courtney's death?

A. “I had never thought of taking my life, taking Courtney's life. ... She was sleeping. She stayed asleep.

“(I thought) she's not in pain. I'm not hurting her. It wasn't like I was doing anything vicious to her. I knew she would go to heaven.

“I thought I was dying. ... I tried to write a note to my family. ... I apologized to my family. I apologized to God. ... I just didn't know what else to do.”

Q. What happened when you awoke the morning of May 27, 2015?

A. “I was panicked. I was crying. I was praying to God asking him for help. ... I said, God, if I am dying, what's going to happen to Courtney? I don't have anyone to come in and take care of her. My parents are well into their 80s, my sister works full time and Courtney was pretty much a full-time job.

“She stayed (in a state institution) for a week during my surgery (in 2012) and when we went to get her she was filthy, her clothes were soiled, she was sitting in a soaking wet diaper, she was withdrawn. ... My mom and I went to get her and she didn't know who we were at first.”

Q. You're not asking for a pardon; you are asking for mercy. Why do you think you deserve a commutation from Gov. Bruce Rauner and why do you believe incarceration is inappropriate?

A. “Because of my health issues. Three months I was (in Illinois Department of Corrections custody) and I lost 14 pounds. They didn't provide me with my medication, either for my physical health or mental health. You're given 15 minutes, barely, to eat. A lot of it I couldn't digest. If I was healthy it would be a whole different story.

“Yes, what I did was wrong, it was a crime. But to put me in prison again, with my health issues, I don't think I would survive.

“We're not asking for a free ride or a pardon. To me putting me back into the Department of Corrections would be a death sentence. And I wasn't given that.”

Q. How do you respond when people describe you as a murderer? How do you live with that label?

A. “I learned to not read what's online. I've had way more support, more positive from people than negative. I didn't stab her. I didn't shoot her. I didn't strangle her. She stayed sleeping. I don't think she was in any kind of pain. It isn't easy. I had a lot of people that I knew turn on me.”

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  Bonnie Liltz of Schaumburg shares pictures of her daughter Courtney during an interview at her attorney's office in Schaumburg Monday. Steve Lundy/
  Bonnie Liltz of Schaumburg was sentenced to four years in prison for the death of her severely disabled daughter Courtney in 2015. Steve Lundy/
  Bonnie Liltz of Schaumburg shows a necklace that she wears around her neck the says, "The love between a mother and daughter is forever." Steve Lundy/
  Attorney Thomas Glasgow comments during an interview with Bonnie Liltz, the Schaumburg mom sentenced to four years in prison for the death of her severely disabled daughter Courtney in 2015. Steve Lundy/
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