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Judge rules against giving kids back to mom linked to drownings

Amanda Ware and her husband Leo Ware. AP file photo

A judge has ruled three children who were placed in state custody in 2014 after a doctor linked their mother to the drownings of three other children more than a decade earlier in central Illinois will remain in foster care.

Cook County Circuit Judge Demetrios Kottaras ruled Friday that Amanda Ware and Leo Ware — who are separated but both living in Chicago — are unable to properly care for the children, Department of Children and Family Services spokeswoman Veronica Resa said.

The Wares had asked Kottaras to find whether the custody case should remain on a track to return the children to them within 12 months.

Amanda Ware, then Amanda Hamm, at the time of her December 2003 arrest.

Amanda Ware, then Amanda Hamm, at the time of her December 2003 arrest.

In November, the judge had called Amanda Ware an abusive and neglectful parent, citing her mental illness and history of drug abuse in rejecting her request to have the children returned.

Amanda Ware, then known as Amanda Hamm and living in downstate Clinton, was convicted of child endangerment and served five years in prison for watching then-boyfriend Maurice LaGrone Jr. drown her three children from previous relationships in September 2003 in Clinton Lake, south of Bloomington, in DeWitt County.

Christopher Hamm, 6, Austin Brown, 3, and Kyleigh Hamm, 23 months, were in the back seat of Hamm’s car, which was being driven by LaGrone when it submerged. Hamm and LaGrone escaped uninjured.

Prosecutors said LaGrone, who is now serving a life sentence in the deaths, wanted to kill the children because they interfered with the couple’s relationship and his sex-and-drugs lifestyle.

The state took custody of Ware’s current children in 2014 after a doctor in Chicago recognized Ware as the woman involved in the DeWitt County case when Ware was in a hospital for the delivery of her third child.

Greg Hamm, who is Ware’s first husband and the father of 6-year-old drowning victim Christopher Hamm, said Friday he doesn’t support giving his ex-wife her children back.

“She’s too mentally unstable to be a mother and she’s proved it,” Hamm said.

Court-appointed guardian Carol Casey had recommended during a hearing Wednesday that Amanda Ware be given a chance to continue working toward the goal of bringing the children home. Casey said the mother has “a huge trauma background” and that her husband, Leo Ware, “landed on his feet” after his release from prison and should be recognized for his efforts despite a drug relapse about a year ago.

Resa said a December “permanency and planning” hearing is scheduled to review the parents’ progress. Similar hearings will be held every six months.

The DCFS spokeswoman said the Wares, who separated several months ago, will be allowed to continue their supervised visits with the children.