"Tragedy" doesn't even begin to explain how abusive father MICHAEL CONNOLLY managed to get access to his two sons, only to murder them in cold blood. There was no "inexplicable tragedy." Dad was GRANTED the opportunity to kill his children by real people in the system who are now trying to dodge all responsibility:
1) An incompetent psychiatrist who reported that Dad was "not a threat" despite a long documented history of harassment and abuse;
2) County Judge James Souk, who gave Dad unsupervised visitation despite the fact that Dad had violated the rules of supervised visitation and an existing order of protection; and
3) The police, who refused to issue an Amber Alert, despite the fact that the mother had an order of protection and the children had not been returned on time.
Tragic case proves orders of protection only go so far
By Edith Brady-Lunny firstname.lastname@example.org Posted: Monday, August 17, 2009 12:00 am
BLOOMINGTON -- For some victims of domestic violence, protection comes from a room in a shelter. For others, it's in a court document known as an order of protection.
The document, issued by a judge, outlines how to keep people separated after incidents of violence, harassment or threats. Peace, of a sort, can be mitigated by a court's promise to punish whoever doesn't follow the rules.
The promise doesn't guarantee a happy ending.
"I was hoping he would violate the order so he would get arrested. Then maybe the boys and I could sleep at night," said Amy Leichtenberg, whose sons were murdered by her estranged husband during a custodial visit in March.
Over the years, Leichtenberg, of LeRoy, had asked judges in two counties for orders of protection but didn't believe they would stop the harassment and abuse by Michael Connolly.
The couple's relationship continued to deteriorate during a drawn-out divorce. It ended March 8, when Connolly failed to return Duncan, 6, and Jack, 4. Connolly murdered the boys and killed himself in remote Putnam County.
Connolly's final act of vengeance left Leichtenberg in unknowing agony for three weeks, when the bodies eventually were found.
When Leichtenberg sought a protective order against Connolly in spring 2007, she wrote 10 pages recounting incidents of stalking, hundreds of harassing phone calls and threats. A 2006 order issued in McHenry County, where the couple used to live, and later in McLean County, prohibited Connolly from contacting Leichtenberg and her sons.
In January, McLean County Judge James Souk changed the order to allow unsupervised overnight visits after reports from a psychiatrist said Connolly was not a threat to himself or the boys. Before that, Connolly visited with the boys at a professionally supervised setting in Bloomington. That set-up ended after he violated the rules of the visitation center and the orders of protection.
Last month, surrounded by photos and other mementos of her sons, Leichtenberg talked to The Pantagraph about her new role as advocate for parents and children who have experienced similar tragedies. She hopes the proposed Duncan and Jack Law will address factors that may have contributed to the lengthy search for the boys. A 26-hour delay in the issuance of a nationwide Amber Alert postponed a broader search for the children after they went missing.
Initially, LeRoy police didn't believe the children were at risk with their father, despite information in the orders of protection that Connolly threatened Leichtenberg: "You're going to hurt just like I hurt." Adding to the confusion was Souk's order that allowed unsupervised visitation of the children, a decision was that revoked one day after the boys went missing.
"We want the law to state that where there is an order of protection and the children are not returned, an Amber Alter is issued - no ifs, ands or buts," said Leichtenberg. A protective order currently is not a reason to automatically issue an Amber Alert.
Two days after the boys went missing, Leichtenberg received a hate-filled letter from Connolly, mailed from Lacon. She gave it to police as evidence, but decided not to read its full content. The letter's details never have been released.
'Keep reporting it'
If an order of protection is issued against a person with mental health issues - Connolly had been treated for depression - strict proof should be required that recommended medication and counseling plans are being followed, according to Leichtenberg's proposal. Leichtenberg and her supporters are meeting with state representatives and officials to discuss proposed changes in the law.
Leichtenberg believes the obsessive Connolly had thoroughly planned when and where the children would die from an overdose of prescription medication. Jack also had a stab wound.
Leichtenberg believes Jack likely was the initial target, noting that her former husband resented the addition of a second child to the family. She rebuffed Connolly's request to take Jack alone for the weekend and insisted both boys go on the visit.
"Duncan was Jack's protector. He was my protector," said Leichtenberg.
Six months later, Leichtenberg is slowly moving forward, attending support group meetings and seeing a counselor. "If I stay busy, I'm OK. Night time is the worst, when I sit down and start thinking," she said.
She wants to help other women in equally dangerous situations. "I would tell them to get away and get your children away from the situation. And keep reporting it. Don't rely on an order of protection. I did everything the order said and I still didn't get protection for me and the boys."
Orders of protection
An order of protection is a court order designed to protect individuals and families from violent and harassing behavior. The orders offer civil legal protection from domestic violence to men, women and children.
There are three types of orders of protection:
Emergency orders may be granted by a judge based upon a victim's testimony and lasts until a hearing can be held, usually within 14 to 21 days.
Interim orders used to protect a victim in between expiration of an emergency order and a court hearing. An interim order lasts up to 30 days.
Plenary orders provides long term protection for victims after a court has heard both sides of a situation. Plenary orders last up to two years and may be renewed.
Source: Illinois Compiled Statutes