Terminally Ill Mother Felt She Had No Choice But to End Disabled Daughter’s Life


When Bonnie Liltz first saw Courtney, it was love at first sight. She was smitten with the 2-year old who was in the state facility where she volunteered.


“I just fell in love with her there,” said Liltz as she looked back to the time she decided to take this child who had been rejected twice. Why didn’t anyone want her?

That was because she was severely handicapped, but of course, the soon-to-be-mother was meant to be with her. She was meant to take care of Courtney.

It Came With A Price

Courtney was a child who had been rejected by her very own mother. Then when an adoptive family saw her, she was rejected as well. That was because she had health issues that required a lot of work from those who were responsible for her. She had seizures and she needed feeding tubes. Courtney had cerebral palsy and needed to use diapers. In fact, she would forever need someone to take care of her.

Unconditional Love

When Liltz officially adopted Courtney, she made a solemn promise to the judge, and that was to take care of this innocent little girl and to be the best mother that she could ever be. The best part was that she was finally going to be a mother. She had always wanted the responsibility, but at a younger age, she had suffered from ovarian cancer. Radiation had ravaged her body and left her infertile. But now, fate had given her an opening to live her dream.

Creating a Bond

Courtney had to wear a diaper for her entire life. More importantly, her disability left her unable to speak. Nonetheless, Liltz loved her unconditionally. When she was interviewed and asked what her warmest memory of Courtney was, it was hearing the little girl speak the only word she ever said, “Mama.” This is what she cherishes the most to this very day.

Happy Childhood

Courtney grew up in a happy home. Liltz provided her with everything she needed, especially love. And she thrived. She eventually learned how to feed herself and use a computer. She had a stable home and felt cherished by the woman who took her in when no one wanted her.

A Mother’s Struggle

Liltz was always a thin woman since she had ovarian cancer in 1979. She also suffered from incessant diarrhea. She was always fearful of the state of her health, and what she worried about the most was Courtney. She was left under the state’s care when she was young, and the woman saw how devastating it was for a little girl who had to depend on others for her wellbeing. She really didn’t trust anyone to care for Courtney as well as she did.

Feeling Pain

Then, Liltz fear became a reality. She felt extremely bad on the night of May 27, 2015. She already had bowel problems after her operation, but this time, it was even worse. She was sweating and her heart was pounding against her chest. She didn’t really know what to do because she somehow thought she was going to die. Her disease was back, but it was going to be a struggle this time around because she had a daughter with her.

Praying and Hoping

Her daughter had been asleep when this happened, and in the midst if it all, Liltz was panicking. She was praying to God that night, asking him what was wrong. She was going to die, she was sure of it. While she had come to this conclusion, she knew that Courtney was going to be lost without her. The state was certainly incapable of taking care of this helpless, innocent child.

Making the Decision

So, as she soiled the bed in the wee hours of the morning, she knew what she needed to do. Her gastroenterologist had told her that her intestines could fail and she was sure that her stomach had collapsed at that time. This was it. She was going to end her life and make sure that her daughter doesn’t suffer as well.

Looking at Her Own Circumstance

So, as she soiled the bed in the wee hours of the morning, she knew what she needed to do. Her gastroenterologist had told her that her intestines could fail and she was sure that her stomach had collapsed at that time. This was it. She was going to end her life and make sure that her daughter doesn’t suffer as well.

Looking at Her Own Circumstance

So, as she looked at a sleeping Courtney who occupied the twin bed in her tiny one-bedroom condo, she was going to end her daughter’s life as well. She thought that she didn’t have options because for years, she was the only one who was able to help the girl. “And the thought of having her live in an institution for the rest of her life was more than I could bear,” she had said.

The Reason Behind It

So, what made Liltz doubt the state’s ability to care for Courtney? Well, she was required to undergo surgery in 2012 when her cancer resurfaced. During that time, her daughter was forced to live in a nursing home for a week. Courtney had barely survived the ordeal and wasn’t herself after the short ordeal. She also remembered other details that left her disgusted.

Not Enough

The week that Courtney wasn’t with Liltz was the most difficult. The mother had missed her terribly, but when they were both home, she was upset at the state she found her daughter in. She was wet, covered in filth and drool, and was wasting away in the corner. The only place safe for her and her young one was heaven. That was it!

A Moment of Desperation

Liltz had reached her moment of desperation. She felt extreme compassion for Courtney, which is why she did what she felt she needed to do. She crushed a concoction of medications and funneled it through the girl’s feeding tube. As for herself, she downed the same mix with the help of a bottle of wine. In her mind, this was going to be the end for both of them. Nonetheless, this was the only option she had.

Saying Goodbye

She knew paramedics would find their bodies and they would want answers. Hence, she wrote a note and left it on the kitchen counter. The note had said, “I am so sorry to put you all through this but I can’t leave my daughter behind.” And with that, she bid the world adieu.


And so, Liltz fell into a deep sleep. Both mother and daughter were unconscious. A family member found them in this state and called the police on May 27, 2015. Both were taken immediately to the hospital but 28-year old Courtney didn’t come out alive. She died a week later. The 56-year old Liltz, on the other hand, survived with the help of doctors.

Taken Into Custody

Liltz was immediately taken into custody the moment she recuperated, but this was just the start of her very difficult journey. She reached out to Thomas Glasgow and he became her attorney during the hearing. When she was given the chance to speak to the judge, she simply said, “I would like nothing more than to turn the clock back and have the ability to care for her again.”

Living in Pain

Liltz experienced pain that she said were beyond words. The daughter that she loved so much is gone, but she still stuck by her decision because she thought that it could have gone worse for Courtney had she died. Nonetheless, she pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

Pain and Suffering

Liltz weighed no more than a hundred pounds since she was diagnosed with cancer. And as the days passed, she seemed to wither with time. The case had touched a chord in those who have heard her case, and though the mother was guilty of trying to kill her child, many actually believed that it came from the goodness of her heart.

Getting Support

Hundreds of people have reached out to Glasgow since the trial began. That’s because Liltz’s case touched the hearts of mothers who have children suffering from disabilities. They knew what she had gone through and they simply put themselves in her position. For them, they would have been at a loss as well if they were in her circumstance.

People’s Reactions

Glasgow had lost count with the number of supportive letters he’s received. Unfortunately, not everyone shares the same sentiment. “Murder is not an option,” said Tony Paulauski, an advocate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He believes that there are systems in place to care for people like Courtney. Though getting help isn’t always easy, he also believes that it isn’t impossible and that people should stop devaluing what the government is able to provide.

A Better Option

Paulaski further states that there are advancements in the fields of technology and medicine. Disabled individuals, he says, are now living a lot longer because help is available. However, there are still those who worry. Mothers cannot help but sympathize with Liltz because they too need to be informed of the help they can get.

A Mother’s Prayer

As Liltz faces time in prison, she hoped that the judge would understand her situation. However, she had not expected the decision given to her. She was sentenced to four years behind bars by Judge Joel Greenblatt for the overdosed death despite the fact that prosecutors agreed that probation was the most appropriate sentence.


Though Liltz may not have agreed with what the judge said, she had to respectfully obey his decision. She was devastated and scared, and worst of all, she was frail because of her failing health. As the months passed after the decision, Liltz lost even more weight. She entered at 98 pounds, and when she fought for her release once more, she had lost 14 more pounds.

Glasgow stayed by her side all throughout the case because he believed that Liltz was only trying to be a good mother. Though her actions were wrong, he thought that her intentions were pure. He had spoken to the media and said, “This is the most unusual case I have worked on in my entire career.” For him, it was the saddest as well because she cared about her daughter more than anything.

What She Said

When Liltz was interviewed during her fight for freedom, she simply stated, “People are going to have their opinion, but in my heart it wasn’t murder. I mainly did it out of love for her because I didn’t want her to end up the rest of her life living in a state facility and wondering where I am. To me, the only safe place was heaven.”

Pushing Through

When Liltz was out on a bail, she had made the decision to kill herself once more by overdosing. The botched murder-suicide was going to be a success this time because she knew that after she was out on a bail, the judge would again rule that she finish her 4-year sentence, and to her, that wasn’t an option.

Return to Prison

Liltz body was found in her Shaumburg, Illinois home on Saturday, November 25, 2017, just two days before she was scheduled to report back to prison. It had been a long and exhaustive battle for her, but her sister believes that Liltz would have been more willing to go back to jail had the judge been more understanding of her concerns.

Unwilling to Listen

In fact, during Liltz time in prison, her health was quickly deteriorating. Glasgow requested that she be given unique medical attention. However, Judge Greenblatt simply said that they needed to assess her condition before he made that decision. This just disheartened the mother because he wouldn’t even budge for that reasonable request.

Ongoing Struggle

The two years Liltz spent in prison had been an uphill battle. She had been hospitalized twice and was slowly wasting away. The rare move to release her temporarily while on bond was her chance to end her life and finally rejoin Courtney who was now in heaven.

Moving On

The Liltz family is still mourning over the poor woman’s death while advocates of the disabled believe that the four years she was set to serve was still too short. There has been an ongoing debate about this case with one corner for Liltz and the other believing that she wasn’t punished enough. This has been more painful for her family, but nonetheless, they stand by Bonnie Liltz’s decision because they knew just how much she cared for Courtney and how her world revolved around this girl’s life while she was still alive.

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