Emerging Details Paint Tragic Picture

Mother blames deaths on McLean County judge

It only gets more tragic the more we learn about the short lives of Duncan and Jake Connolly and the father who killed them.

The boys' mother, Amy Leichtenberg, has said that she tried to keep Michael Duncan away from the couple's sons. She knew he was dangerous and she had filed orders of protection more than once.

But, Michael Connolly played the system, the Chicago Tribune reported on Wednesday.  When a McLean County judge told Connolly to get a job and a home and to stop harrassing his ex-wife, Connolly complied.

He landed a sales position and rented an apartment and, for about nine months, he followed the judge's directive. 

"He not only behaved, but he presented very well," Leichtenberg's attorney, Helen Ogar, said. "He had nice suits, he spoke very well, and he was intelligent, but he never dealt with the underlying issues."

The Tribune reports that Connolly's psychiatrists appealled to the judge to allow his patient to see the boys to help his depression.

So, the estranged husband and father was rewarded by the courts, given unsupervised visitation in October 2008.  By Jan. 23, the court allowed Connolly to have alternate weekend visits and Wednesday visits with the 7- and 9-year-old boys, with pickups and dropoffs at the police station, the paper says.

In early March, however, the man Leichtenberg had come to fear didn't return the boys following a weekend visit. An Amber Alert was issued, but authorities couldn't find Connolly and the boys.

That is, until last weekend, when all three were found dead in a rural area of Putnam County in what police are calling a double-murder/suicide.

Connolly hung himself from a tree about 60 yards from where his sons were found dead in the backseat of his car.

Amy Leichtenberg has told authorites that she doesn't want to know how her boys were killed, so details about their deaths are being kept under wraps.  The McLean County Sheriff's Office has said, however, that there was no gun involved in the killings and none found at the scene.

"My heart is broken," the grieving mother said through a friend.

Leichtenberg officially changed her sons' last name on Tuesday. It's not clear if that was something she had been working on for a while, or if the name change was expedited prior to Duncan and Jack's funeral at her request.

She has blamed McLean County Circuit Judge James Souk for the boys' deaths.  He was the judge who granted Michael Connolly access to the boys.

But the Tribune reports that Souk was not the only one to misjudge Connolly. At various checkpoints throughout the prolonged visitation battle, the man was able to convince law-enforcement officials, mental-health experts and social workers that he meant no harm.
Court records show that his ex-wife knew otherwise. In petitions for protection, Leichtenberg outlined threats by Connolly to "cut open" her parents, hurt her an kill himself.

Records further indicate that the estranged husband violated orders of protection 57 times.

"Hell, yes, the system failed Amy," attorney Ogar said. "Amy was treated seriously (by the system), but he bamboozled people. He was cagey and manipulative."

He also had Illinois law and Judge Souk on his side.  As much as their mother was on their side, she  couldn't keep Duncan and Jack for the rage and cruelty in their father. 

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