[Content warning: This column discusses violence and suicide.]
On Nov. 25, Bonnie Liltz, a convicted murderer who in 2015 killed her 28-year-old autistic daughter, was found dead in her apartment. The police suspect it was a suicide. She was due to report to prison on Monday. It is believed that she decided to take her own life knowing that, if she did not, she would most certainly die in prison.
Earlier this month, I wrote a column for The Miscellany News saying some not-so-kind words about Ms. Liltz. Although I at no point urged Bonnie Liltz to commit suicide or even referred to her by name, I referred to her crime, and similar crimes as “unjustifiable.” I ridiculed her claim that she was motivated by love or mercy.
My column, obviously, in no way contributed to Bonnie Liltz killing herself on Saturday. I highly doubt that she read it and, even if by some small miracle she had, I would be shocked if it in had affected her in that way. If she didn’t already feel guilty about murdering her own daughter in cold blood, I doubt an op-ed in a college newspaper would change anything.
But I’m sure there are those who now, looking back, feel some sense of remorse. After all, Bonnie Liltz was a person who had feelings. She had wants and goals and did what she thought was right. Some will undoubtedly give in to temptation and feel the slightest amount of pity, even remorse, following her tragic demise.
I am not one of those people. I feel the same way about Bonnie Liltz today that I felt when I first published that column.
I despise her. I harbor not one shred of pity for her. It is a mark of shame upon this society that we mourn more for a murderer than we do for her victim. Where were the tears when Courtney Liltz died? Where were the tears when Alex Spourdalakis died? Where were the tears when London McCabe died? Where were the tears when George Hodgins died? Where were the tears when Tracy Latimer died? Why do we as a society only mourn for the perpetrators? Liltz’s prison sentence and subsequent death were the outcome of her decision to murder her daughter. Liltz could have completely avoided this outcome had she made the decision not to commit murder.
Now, to clarify, I am not endorsing suicide. I would much rather Bonnie Liltz have served her debt to society in prison, learned that her actions were wrong and spent the remainder of her life atoning for what she did by warning others not to do the same. That would have been a much more preferable conclusion to this story.
Even better would have been if Bonnie Liltz had been a half-decent person and decided not to murder her daughter. Or, maybe she could have been a genuinely good person and loved her daughter without even once considering the possibility of killing her.
But, considering how events transpired, I’d rather live in a world without Bonnie Liltz than in one with her. One fewer voice on the television ranting about how understandable it is to murder disabled people is fine by me. However, my purpose here is not to pettily kick a murderer while her body is still warm. Instead, I would like to urge my readers not to give into remorse and understand why my arguments are still valid.
Courtney Liltz’s murderer, as I will henceforth be referring to her, had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Her lawyers argued that she acted not out of malice, but out of concern regarding what would happen to her daughter after her own death. Certainly, I would also be very concerned about this if I was in her shoes. Dying is scary, especially when you have a daughter who needs a high level of care.
To be fair, she had reason to be worried. According to her attorneys, her daughter had previously been put in a nursing home for about a week. While there, she was allegedly abused.
Anyone who had spent time in an institution such as this or spent a good deal of time studying them could testify that they are not an enviable way of life. Most people don’t like the idea of spending the rest of their life in such a place.
But that was not a decision for Courtney Liltz’s murderer to make. The same way that I don’t have the right to murder you because I think it’s preferable to the life you’re living, so too did Courtney’s mother not have the right to murder her daughter based on her own idea of what was best for her. Bonnie’s actions were not, therefore, an act of love, but an act of possession. In her eyes, her daughter was her possession, so she had the right to do what she wanted to her, including kill her.
This is a wildly dangerous way of thinking about others. Just like that, a living, breathing person is reduced to little more than a ragdoll. You may play with her as you please and then throw her out when you get bored. She doesn’t have a consciousness or feelings or a life outside of you.
Except Courtney Liltz possessed all of those things. She was a person who had a consciousness and feelings, and some semblance of a life outside of her mother. That her mother did not perceive these as being true does not make them false.
It’s unfortunate that Bonnie Liltz developed cancer. It’s unfortunate that she was going to die. It’s tragic that her death could have resulted in her daughter being institutionalized.
But none of that justifies what she did. Murder is murder is murder is murder. She still killed her daughter and was able to get away with only four years in prison. Good people have been given much more significant penalties for much less significant crimes.
That Bonnie Liltz couldn’t handle the four years in prison she was sentenced to after receiving a generous plea deal is hardly pitiable. That she likely would have died in prison isn’t even worth my sympathy. At least she was able to live past her 20s, unlike Courtney.
The ultimate irony is that Bonnie Liltz was allowed to make a decision as to when she wanted to die. She made a conscious decision to die. Courtney didn’t get that choice.