Naperville mother avoids jail: She overmedicated son, who survived — (The Chicago Tribune)

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The Chicago Tribune

By Art Barnum, Tribune staff reporter

Published April 7, 2007

A Naperville mother who admitted overmedicating her son in 2005 while in a suicidal depression broke into tears Friday when a DuPage County judge declined to send her to prison.

Instead, Judge George Bakalis, who presided over the Lemak case in which a mother stood trial in the deaths of her three children, sentenced Jacqueline Gioia, 51, to 30 months’ probation and ordered her to perform 500 hours of community service. Gioia, who had no criminal record, could have received between 2 and 5 years in prison.

In December, she pleaded guilty to aggravated battery of her 17-year-old son on Sept. 28, 2005.

During sentencing, Bakalis admonished Gioia for her actions and referred to Marilyn Lemak, the Naperville woman who was sentenced to life in prison for overmedicating and suffocating her children.

“On one occasion with a woman with a similar background, the results were very different,” Bakalis said. “We don’t know how many pills you were away from serious injury or death of your son.”

Gioia admitted giving her son an overdose of prescription sleeping medication. Her attorney, Philip Nathe, said her intention “wasn’t to harm her son.”

Now a college student, he suffered no permanent injuries and was released the same day from Edward Hospital in Naperville. Nathe said the mother and son have a normal relationship.

Gioia had suicidal thoughts, prompting her to ingest more than twice the amount of medication she gave her son. Nathe said she didn’t want to be disturbed while pondering her own depression.

“By all evidence, other than this, you led an exemplary life and were a model mother,” Bakalis said. “Something went wrong.”

Bakalis also ordered Gioia to continue counseling.

In 2005, police were called to the Gioia home by a family friend whom the defendant had called and told about overmedicating her son and herself. Gioia was arrested later after crashing her car into another vehicle in Naperville.

“Thank God she didn’t go through with her thoughts,” said Assistant State’s Atty. Alex McGimpsey, who asked for a 2-year prison sentence. “To transfer her depression to the child is incomprehensible. This came close to something catastrophic.”

Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune