Carol Marin: She opened her heart to the daughter she killed

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Bonnie Liltz is shockingly thin.

We met for the first time on Thursday.

The 55-year-old Schaumburg mother was trying to navigate the Rolling Meadows courthouse to find the right office to report to before the 9 a.m. hearing in her murder case.

I first wrote about her last week.

About how, on May 27, in the one-bedroom condo she shared with her profoundly disabled 28-year-old daughter, Courtney, she administered what she thought was a lethal overdose of medication to them both, wrote a suicide note, and closed her eyes.

Courtney died. Bonnie did not.

This case weighs heavily on people who never knew her. Police. Prosecutors. And perfect strangers who have called defense attorney Thomas Glasgow, one leaving a voicemail saying, “I don’t know you at all, but have a lot of sympathy and understanding from experience with what she’s gone through. I will give you $10,000 to post bond if you need it.”


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Bonnie Liltz’s story exists against the backdrop of a crisis in Illinois with regard to the care and funding of the disabled. The day she was in court was the same day Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the budget Democrats sent him that was $4 billion short. Hence, grave cuts, $33 million of them, are forecast for services to the disabled.

Bonnie Liltz’s story exists against the ironic backdrop of the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, a landmark piece of legislation sponsored by retired U.S. Senator Tom Harkin. This week Harkin told Chicago’s City Club, “I don’t know too much about your budget problems. But I’ve seen it in other states…on the national level, too. Why is it the first thing they think about cutting are the things that go to help people with disabilities or those on the lower economic ladder achieve self-sufficiency?”

Yes, why is that?

An Illinois tax on people making more than $1 million a year, apparently, was too great a hardship for Republicans or Democrats to inflict on the wealthy. Similarly, a progressive income tax remains too unbearable for those most able to bear it.

But cutting home health services to the elderly? Or services for the disabled? What geniuses in state government think it cost-effective to strip support for home health care funding when the alternative is far more expensive nursing home placements?

If Illinois needs to be run like a business, what’s businesslike about that?

Bonnie Liltz, like Courtney, is 100 percent disabled as a result of two tortuous bouts of cancer and ongoing, horrific health problems. And yet — and yet — she still cared for a child so handicapped that twice before Courtney was abandoned to the state. It was Bonnie Liltz who, for 23 years, opened her home and her heart to this child, brushed her hair, changed her diapers, and honored her dignity.

Liltz overdosed herself and her daughter because one night in May she believed she was dying. And she believed the state could not be trusted with Courtney’s care.

A desperate act?

It was.

A desperate need?

It is.

Follow Carol Marin on Twitter: Follow @CarolMarin

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