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Lemak found guilty of killing three children
Wheaton, Ill.

December 20, 2001 After sitting through three weeks of often gripping testimony and arguments about the deaths of his three young children, David Lemak appeared relieved and emotionally drained when the verdict came in.

"I miss my children dearly," David Lemak said shortly after a DuPage County jury rejected his ex-wife's insanity defense and convicted Marilyn Lemak of first-degree murder Wednesday.

Surrounded by his parents and new wife, David Lemak held up a photo of his children as he fought back tears.

"Certainly, one of my regrets is that I won't have a chance to see what kind of impact on the world they could have made," he said.

It was an emotional end to a highly charged case.

Prosecutors argued that Marilyn Lemak was sane when she killed her children on March 4, 1999, in her Naperville home, hoping to punish her physician husband over their pending divorce and because he had started seeing another woman.

Lemak fed the children -- Thomas, 3, Emily, 6, and Nicholas, 7 -- peanut butter laced with antidepressants and then laid them down to sleep and smothered them with her hands.

Lemak pleaded innocent and her lawyers used an insanity defense, arguing that the killings were the work of a delusional woman and the culmination of a downward spiral of depression.

They said she felt David Lemak had abandoned the family and that she wanted to kill the children and herself so they could be reunited in a happier place.

The jury, which deliberated close to ten hours, rejected alternate verdicts of guilty but mentally ill or innocent by reason of insanity.

Lemak's lawyers failed to make their case, juror Giovanni Lombardo said.

"They couldn't prove that she was insane at the time of the murders, and that's pretty much what they were trying to do," he said.

Juror Lataurus Collins said that, as a single mother, she could sympathize with Lemak's worry as she watched her family breaking up.

"I can understand the stress level, but never to a point to where I would want to kill my little one," Collins said.

Lemak, looking gaunt and pale in her dark blue jail uniform, sat quietly looking down as the verdict was read.

"We're completely devastated," said Lemak's father, William Morrissey. "We never expected this verdict."

David Lemak praised the prosecution's handling of the case and spoke briefly about his former wife.

"I loved Lynn," he said. "She made choices throughout the last few years of our marriage, and those choices took her to a path that leads to where she is now."

DuPage County Judge George Bakalis will sentence Lemak, but a date has not been set. She is eligible for life in prison or death.

DuPage County State's Attorney Joseph Birkett previously indicated he would seek the death penalty against the 44-year-old former surgical nurse. Wednesday he said that decision was still under review and that he would meet with David Lemak about it.

Asked if his ex-wife's execution would bring him some comfort, David Lemak said he wasn't sure.

"I don't know that I have an answer. I've certainly thought about it considerably," he said. "I would say, first of all, justice isn't served in this world."

Defense attorney Jack Donahue said he was disappointed in the verdict and felt "entrapped by the process regarding insanity that's very difficult to sustain in the state of Illinois." The insanity defense is rarely successful and in 1995 was narrowed by the state Legislature.

Donahue, who plans an appeal, said Lemak's family is particularly upset because they believe Lemak won't receive the necessary psychiatric care in prison.

Birkett said Lemak has received "outstanding" treatment in jail and that it should be available to her throughout her incarceration.

If found not guilty by reason of insanity Lemak would have been sent to a mental health institution, perhaps for the rest of her life. A judge could have deemed her sane at some point and ordered her release.

"These precious children died at the hands of their own mother as a result of anger and revenge," said Birkett, who led the prosecution in a rare courtroom appearance. Marilyn Lemak wanted to "inflict the maximum amount of pain and suffering" on her husband, he said.

Wednesday, David Lemak recalled the horror of finding out his children were dead.

"One of my first thoughts was, `Why didn't she take me?"' he said. "I think it's helpful to understand that all of us, every one of us, has the potential to do terrible things. ... It's simply a choice to say no to those urges."

(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Last Updated: Dec 21, 2001

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