An ailing Illinois mother who said she gave her severely disabled 28-year-old daughter a lethal dose of drugs through her feeding tube because she agonized over who would care for the daughter if she died pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter on Tuesday, PEOPLE confirms.
Appearing before a judge in the Cook County Third Municipal District Courthouse in Rolling Meadows, Bonnie Liltz, 56, of Schaumberg, Illinois, who suffers from recurring cancer and attempted suicide after giving her daughter the fatal dose of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, agreed to a blind plea, meaning she pleaded guilty without knowing what kind of sentence she would receive, a spokesman from the district attorney’s office tells PEOPLE.
Liltz is a single mother who adopted her daughter, Courtney Liltz, when she was four. Courtney suffered from several severe disabilities including cerebral palsy and required near-constant care.
Liltz was initially charged with first-degree murder in Courtney’s June 5, 2015 death, which carries a minimum 20-year-sentence if convicted, but she changed her plea after prosecutors agreed to reduce her charge. After pleading guilty, Liltz may be given probation or three to 14 years in prison.
Liltz admitted to breaking open capsules of medications and giving them to Courtney through her feeding tube in May 2015, according to court records.
Subsequently, she attempted to end her own life by then taking the drugs herself, lacing a glass of wine with the medications, authorities say. Her sister called police when she found Liltz and her daughter unconscious in their beds in the condominium they shared.
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Liltz had suffered a host of health problems, including recurring ovarian cancer, and was becoming increasingly worried about what would happen to Courtney if she died, saying she didn’t want her sent to an institution.
Her lawyer, Thomas Glasgow, told reporters afterward that Liltz was “a caring, loving mother toward Courtney.”
“She fed the child, she bathed the child, took care of the child, changed the child’s diapers,” he said, adding that Courtney had the mental capacity of a two-and-a-half to three-year-old.
“She thought she was dying and she looked to end her own life and the life of her child because she couldn’t imagine … the child going back to the home,” he said.
He added, “She was successful in ending her child’s life. She was unsuccessful in ending her own.”
Liltz had left a suicide note, according to authorities, that said, in part, “I am so sorry to put you all through this but I can’t leave my daughter behind. … I go first, what will happen to her? I don’t want her to live in an institution for the rest of her life. She is my life.”
Liltz’s family pleaded for leniency Tuesday when they testified that she devoted her life to caring for Courtney but became increasingly worried about what would happen to her.
“Bonnie really believed she was dying and didn’t want to leave Courtney, the love of her life, in the hands of someone else,” Liltz’s sister, Susan Liltz, testified, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“She believed Courtney would go to heaven and be safe there,” Liltz’s mother, Gladys Liltz, testified, according to the Tribune. “Bonnie’s punishment is missing Courtney every day.”