Crisis In The Family Courts

Mother of slain LeRoy boys files $10M lawsuit against city, police

Posted in domestic law by abatteredmother on March 12, 2010

By Edith Brady-Lunny | | Posted: Wednesday, March 10, 2010 11:22 am | (159) Comments

Amy Leichtenberg talks about the need for a change in the system when a mentally unstable parent is suspected of child abduction Wednesday afternoon, March 3, 2010. (The Pantagraph/LORI ANN COOK-NEISLER)

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BLOOMINGTON — Amy Leichtenberg is suing LeRoy police for $10 million, accusing them of causing a 26-hour delay that could have saved her sons’ lives.

Leichtenberg, of LeRoy, filed the wrongful death action Tuesday in McLean County Circuit Court in connection with the March 2009 deaths of Jack, 7, and Duncan, 9, at the hands of their father, Michael Connolly.

The boys, who had been fatally drugged, were found several weeks later in their father’s car in rural Putnam County. Connolly’s body was nearby.

Police Chief Gordon Beck said on Wednesday that he was unaware of the lawsuit and declined to comment.

The lawsuit says the police department; officers Nathan Wilkins, Jason Williamson, Dustin Wiseman; and other unknown members of the department, violated the state’s Domestic Violence Act by allegedly recalling an Amber Alert issued by Bloomington police, and by failing to protect Leichtenberg and the boys.

Connolly failed to return the boys from a weekend visit. Leichtenberg claims LeRoy police were well aware that Connolly was potentially dangerous because of more than 50 previous complaints about his behavior.

Leichtenberg filed for divorce in 2006. A judge initially ordered supervised visitation with the boys, and later gave permission for overnight visits. The estranged couple exchanged the children at the LeRoy Police Department because of an order of protection between the two adults.

The lawsuit focuses on a 26-hour delay in issuing an Amber Alert. When Connolly failed to show up with the boys an hour after he was expected, LeRoy police asked Bloomington police to check on the boys at Connolly’s Bloomington apartment.

According to the lawsuit, Bloomington police asked state police to issue an Amber Alert after officers didn’t find the boys, but LeRoy police then asked state police to recall the nationwide alert.

"Only after Amy Leichtenberg’s attorney contacted the McLean County Sheriff’s Department and the McLean County State’s Attorney, did the Amber Alert re-issue, approximately 26 hours after Jack and Duncan had been reported missing," said the lawsuit.

The delay allowed Connolly "to travel unimpeded throughout Illinois with Duncan and Jack for several hours during which he almost certainly would have been apprehended had the alert remained in effect," the lawsuit argues.

The children’s deaths have caused Leichtenberg serious emotional and psychological injuries, according to the lawsuit filed by the Itasca firm of James G. Sotos & Associates.

In an interview with The Pantagraph last week, Leichtenberg said she has spent much of the past year working with lawmakers to change child custody and abduction laws that could prevent similar situations.

An Aug. 6 case management conference is scheduled

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