Chicago Tribune

Lemak gets life for slaying 3 children

By Jeff Coen
Tribune staff reporter
Chicago Tribune
April 8, 2002, 4:21 PM CDT

David Lemak and wife, Janice Ryan, leave the DuPage County Courthouse. (AP Photo/Stephen J. Carrera)
David Lemak and wife, Janice Ryan, leave the DuPage County Courthouse. (AP Photo/Stephen J. Carrera)
Saying, “There are fates worse than death,” a DuPage County judge today sentenced Marilyn Lemak to life in prison with no possibility of parole for the 1999 slayings of her three children.

The normally reserved Judge George Bakalis delivered blistering remarks as he sentenced Lemak, 44, saying he hoped the former Naperville homemaker has to think about the children’s deaths every day for the rest of her life.

“Whenever you look at the walls, the floor, ceiling and bars of your cell, perhaps you will see the faces of these young children and hear their voices, saying, ‘Why, mom? We loved you. Why did you do this?’” Bakalis said. “You will endure this until the end of your natural life.”

Lemak could be transferred to Dwight Correctional Center from DuPage County Jail, Wheaton, as early as Tuesday, officials said.

A jury in December convicted Lemak of murder. Jurors rejected defense arguments that the defendant -- who now goes by her maiden name of Marilyn Morrissey -- was a troubled woman whose sanity slipped away under major depression as her marriage to David Lemak crumbled.

Prosecutors had argued that the defendant killed her children as an ultimate act of vengeance against her estranged spouse, who had left her for another woman. Marilyn and David Lemak subsequently were divorced, and David Lemak remarried.

The jury held Marilyn Lemak, a former surgical nurse, knew what she was doing March 4, 1999 when she doped Nicholas, 7, Emily, 6, and Thomas, 3, with her sleep medication, then smothered them with her hands.

Bakalis’ remarks, toward the end of the 30-minute sentencing hearing in his Wheaton courtroom, followed an impassioned victim’s statement delivered by David Lemak.

“On March 4, 1999, my life, in a way, ended as well. The role in life I held most important, being the father of Nicholas Morrissey Lemak, Emily Grace Lemak and Thomas David Lemak, was ended forevermore,” said the father, an emergency room physician.

Echoing a eulogy he delivered at the children’s funeral in 1999, David Lemak spoke of each child: Nicholas was an excellent student who loved to read; Emily, an artist who loved to draw, and Thomas as “truly the happiest child I’ve known.”

David Lemak ended his statement by saying, “My family and I believe the punishment most befitting Marilyn Morrissey is to spend the rest of her life in prison. There, she will have to live each day with the knowledge of the horror she is accountable for.”

Prosecutors earlier this year stepped back from a pledge to seek the death penalty for Marilyn Lemak.

Bakalis told the defendant he would order psychiatric services for her in prison, but only so that “you will always maintain a capacity to understand the horror of this crime.”

The crime devastated not only the Lemak and Morrissey families, the judge said, but the entire community, which may have been robbed of “a great scientist, a talented actress or musician, a skilled doctor or a gifted athlete.”

Perhaps the children would have grown up to be none of those things, Bakalis added, but then, “they would have loved and been loved in return.”

At that point, both Marilyn and David Lemak wept.

On the advice of her defense attorneys, Marilyn Lemak said nothing. After court, defense lawyer John Donahue said he would file an appeal within 30 days.

The defense team continues to have concerns about Marilyn Lemak’s being placed in the general prison population at Dwight and having a roommate, Donahue said. At her request, she has had a cell to herself in the county jail, he said.

DuPage County State’s Atty. Joseph Birkett declined to comment after court except to say the sentence was “fair and appropriate.”

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