A Schaumburg mother accused of killing her disabled daughter in a botched murder-suicide attempt pleaded guilty Tuesday to involuntary manslaughter.
Bonnie Liltz, now 56, had previously pleaded not guilty in the case, but changed her plea after prosecutors agreed to reduce the charge. She is expected to be sentenced Wednesday, where she could face up to 14 years in prison.
Liltz was charged with first-degree murder last year in the death of her 28-year-old daughter Courtney, who suffered from cerebral palsy. Authorities accused Liltz of giving her daughter various medications in May and then taking some herself so they would both overdose.
Liltz, a two-time cancer survivor with ongoing major medical issues, recovered, but Courtney died June 5.
In a suicide note, Liltz wrote, "I am having difficulty breathing now. If I go first, what will happen to her? I don't want her to live in an institution the rest of her life. She is my life."
In court Tuesday, friends and family said Liltz, who has chronic, profound bowel issues as a result of ovarian cancer from when she was 19, could not survive in prison.
"Bonnie panicked and thought she was dying," her sister Sue Liltz testified, saying she did not take Courtney's life "out of malice or premeditation."
Nine witnesses testified Tuesday that Liltz was a loving, caring mother to a disabled child who had been given up by her birth mother as well as her first adoptive parents.
Judy Bishop, who has known Liltz for years, said the 56-year-old mother "only took her desperate action out of love."
Her attorney, Thomas Glasgow, said Liltz has received an outpouring of sympathy. He says the case highlights dwindling funding to help families caring for disabled children.
"This is someone who ended up taking care of a child who was cast off twice before by society and took her in,” he said, noting she bathed Courtney, dressed her, brushed her hair, kept her in pristine condition day-in-and-day-out. “There was no one else in the world that would have cared for Courtney the way that Bonnie did.”
It's a sentiment echoed by witnesses in court.
"Here we have a budget that is not ratified. Who's suffering? The ill, the elderly, the disabled," said Gloria Cheever.