Schaumburg mom asks for mercy in death of her disabled daughter
For 23 years, Bonnie Liltz loved and cared for her severely disabled daughter, Courtney. Never once did she feel it was a burden, the Schaumburg mother told a Rolling Meadows courtroom Wednesday.
"Every day was a privilege," Liltz said.
Yet last year, fearing she was dying and that Courtney would be sent to state facility where she would receive substandard care, Liltz fed herself and her 28-year-old daughter a lethal dose of prescription drugs.
"The thought of her living in an institution for the rest of her life was more than I could bear," said Liltz, testifying at her sentencing hearing Wednesday.
Liltz, originally charged with first-degree murder, pleaded guilty to an amended charge of involuntary manslaughter of a family member earlier this week, but she will have to wait a week before she learns her fate. After an emotional, 40-minute hearing, Cook County Judge Joel Greenblatt said he will announce his sentence May 18.
Cook County prosecutors have recommended Liltz be sentenced to three to four years of probation.
A single mother, Liltz adopted Courtney, who had cerebral palsy, when she was 5. Courtney was unable to walk or speak (except to say "mama") and required round-the-clock care.
But Liltz, who testified tearfully to a courtroom filled with about two dozen friends and family members, said Courtney enabled her to become a mother after surgery at age 19 to treat stage three ovarian cancer denied Liltz the opportunity to have a biological child.
"October 12, 1992, the day I took her home, was the happiest day of my life," Liltz said.
"In every way but biologically she was my child," added Liltz, her voice breaking. "I loved her like no one else in this room can understand because she allowed me to be a mother."
Another cancer diagnosis in 2012 required inpatient treatment, so Liltz placed Courtney in a state facility for a week. Liltz testified that when she picked Courtney up, her daughter was sitting alone and dirty with wet hair and clothes. Courtney could not understand why they were separated and her anger lasted some time, Liltz said.
As her physical condition worsened, Liltz said she became increasingly anxious about Courtney's welfare if something were to happen to her.
Liltz fed her daughter the pills and tried to kill herself after concluding "the only place she would be safe and happy was in heaven with me." Liltz survived, but Courtney died about a week later.
Not a day goes by, Liltz said, that she doesn't miss her daughter, who had a ready smile and a fondness for Ernie from "Sesame Street."
Liltz concluded her testimony by asking the judge for mercy.
"I'd like nothing more than to turn back the clock and take care of her again," she said.