Friends support Schaumburg mom charged with disabled daughter's death

  • Bonnie Liltz stands by while her attorney Thomas Glasgow speaks to reporters after a hearing last year at the Rolling Meadows courthouse.

    Bonnie Liltz stands by while her attorney Thomas Glasgow speaks to reporters after a hearing last year at the Rolling Meadows courthouse. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Bonnie R. Liltz

    Bonnie R. Liltz

 
 
Updated 5/9/2016 7:48 PM

Bonnie Liltz won't be alone when she appears at the courthouse in Rolling Meadows Tuesday for a hearing that could lead to a disposition on the charge she killed her severely disabled daughter.

The Schaumburg woman, charged with first-degree murder, will be accompanied by friends and family members, many of whom have attended every court appearance since Liltz's bond hearing last June.

 

If convicted of murder, Liltz faces a minimum of 20 and a maximum of 60 years in prison. According to testimony at her bond hearing last year, Liltz admitted feeding medication to her 28-year-old daughter Courtney. Then Liltz, who had recently been diagnosed with recurrent cancer, took some herself, police said.

Supporters who observed the care Liltz gave Courtney described her as a devoted mother to the woman, who had cerebral palsy, could not walk and required 24-hour care.

Liltz "did everything for her … I get tears in my eyes when I think of it," said Eleanor Berge, whose daughter Janet shared a room with Liltz at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights while both young women underwent cancer treatment in 1981.

Berge and her husband Ed will attend the hearing in Cook County Judge Joel Greenblatt's courtroom to support Liltz, who remained friends with their daughter until Janet's death in 1983.

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The couple stayed in touch with Liltz over the years and they stand beside her still, just like Janet would have wanted, said Eleanor Berge.

"We'll be there."

Cancer recurrence

Liltz, 56, was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer in 1979, court records show. The radiation therapy that accompanied her treatment caused damage that at least three subsequent surgeries failed to repair, court records show. In 2012, cancer returned.

But by that time, battling the disease wasn't her only concern. Liltz worried about Courtney, Liltz's attorney, Thomas Glasgow, said.

Put up for adoption by her biological mother, Courtney was placed before her first birthday at Marklund, a Geneva facility for people with profound developmental disabilities. Courtney's first adoptive parents surrendered her, according to Glasgow.

Liltz adopted her when Courtney was 5. In court records, Liltz indicated she went from full-time to part-time work at Bisco, an Elk Grove Village company that manufactures industrial clean air systems, in order to care for Courtney. They lived in Liltz's Schaumburg condominium, where Liltz's older sister found them alive but unresponsive after an overdose of prescription drugs on May 27, 2015.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Police found a handwritten note in the kitchen which read, in part: "I'm so sorry to put you all through this but I can't leave my daughter behind … I don't want her to live in an institution the rest of her life … she is my life."

Prosecutors say she worried about Courtney's future after Liltz's weeklong hospital stay in 2012 forced her to place Courtney in a state facility, which Glasgow said did not live up to Liltz's meticulous standards.

Prosecutors would not comment for this story.

According to court documents, Liltz told authorities Courtney "was not the same" following her stay in the state facility and she feared for her daughter's well-being, which she expressed in the note she left.

"If I go first, what will happen to her?"

Uncertain future

Eleanor Berge described Liltz as a sweet person from a caring family who always had new photographs of her daughter to share when they met for lunch.

"My first words were always: 'How is Courtney?'" she said. "Bonnie would reply: 'She's wonderful. She loves school. She's learning the computer.'"

After Liltz's arrest, police and prosecutors confirmed what Berge and her husband already knew: that Courtney was well-cared for.

Glasgow, a former Cook County prosecutor, said in his 21 years of practicing law, this is among the saddest cases he's had.

"What can you say?" said Eleanor Berge. "I hope there's a positive outcome."

One that doesn't involve jail time, added Ed Berge.

Liltz might not learn her fate at Tuesday's hearing. When she does, she won't face it alone. Her family and friends say they will be by her side, like always.

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