Naperville woman guilty in murder of two children
Elzbieta Plackowska will spend the rest of her life in prison after being found guilty Wednesday of 10 counts of first-degree murder in the stabbing deaths of two children.
DuPage County Judge Robert Miller also found the Naperville woman guilty of two counts of aggravated animal cruelty following more than two weeks of testimony in the bench trial.
Although she won't be sentenced until later this year, the murder convictions come with a mandatory life sentence.
Miller said he believed Plackowska fully understood the wrongfulness of her actions on Oct. 30, 2012, when she stabbed her 7-year-old son, Justin Plackowska, 173 times and 5-year-old Olivia Dworakowski, whom she was baby-sitting, 94 times.
Therefore, Miller said, he did not believe her to be insane.
"Even giving credence to the most lucid of the defendant's various explanations, the choice to commit the criminal act because 'killing the devil' within the kids would be a greater good for humanity is still a decision incorporating the legal wrongfulness of the stabbings," Miller said. "It seems evident to the court that it was mental illness that brought the defendant to the crossroads of having to make such a choice. Despite the sad circumstances, mental illness alone is only one of the two linchpins in the definition of insanity."
Plackowska's attorneys argued she suffered from a bipolar disorder and was in the midst of a psychotic episode at the time of the killings.
At roughly 11 p.m. on the day of the slayings, Naperville police officers were dispatched in response to a report of a woman who had just been robbed. Upon their arrival, they found Plackowska at the residence covered in blood.
At roughly the same time, police responded to a call from Marta Dworakowski requesting help in locating her daughter, Olivia, whom Plackowska was baby-sitting.
Upon arriving at the Dworakowski residence, officers discovered the bodies of Justin Plackowska and Olivia Dworakowski and the two family dogs.
An investigation into the slayings revealed that at some point that evening, Plackowska told the children to get ready for bed.
The children instead began jumping on the bed in the master bedroom. After arming herself with a kitchen knife, Plackowska went to the master bedroom and began stabbing her son repeatedly.
She then stabbed Olivia repeatedly and killed the two family dogs. Plackowska then drove to a family friend's home.
"It was her psychotic and delusional belief that she was killing the devil when she killed the children and dogs," Senior Assistant Public Defender Kristen Nevdal said in her closing arguments. "A voice told her she must kill them perfectly so they could go to heaven."
DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin urged Miller to see through the 12 different versions of events Plackowska gave her family members and detectives in the hours and days after the killings and asked him to focus on one sentence.
"What was going on in the defendant's mind at the time of the crime? There's no better evidence than the defendant's own words," Berlin said during his closing argument before playing a brief clip of a jailhouse interview in which Plackowska answers the question, saying "I'm not supposed to (kill the children), but I have to."
"That's clear acknowledgment that she knew what she was about to do was wrong," Berlin said.
Berlin praised the verdict.
"This afternoon, following two and a half weeks of evidence and testimony, Judge Miller correctly found that (Plackowska) fully understood her criminal conduct at the time she brutally murdered Justin and Olivia," Berlin said. "They were two beautiful children with their whole lives ahead of them, and I continue to offer my sincerest condolences to their surviving family members. This was an extremely disturbing case for all those involved."
Plackowska's next court appearance is scheduled for Nov. 21.