Marilyn Lemak’s 911 call — (Chicago Tribune)

SSRI Ed note: Mom on Zoloft and Ativan following "bitter divorce" drugs, suffocates her 3 children. Mental illness, spite blamed.

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Chicago Tribune

December 17, 1999 


The following is the complete transcript of the 911 emergency call that Marilyn Lemak placed to authorities on March 5, 1999. The transcript was officially unsealed Thursday. TRANSCRIPT OF 911 CALL PEOPLE V. LEMAK99 CF 598

Dispatcher: 911 where’s your emergency?

Defendant: Hi, I’m in Naperville at 28 S. Loomis.

Dispatcher: What’s the problem?

Defendant: My three kids are dead, and I…I wanted to be dead too but it didn’t work.

Dispatcher: Okay, what happened, can you tell me? What’s your name?

Defendant: Lynn, can you send someone?

Dispatcher: Yea I’m going to. Can you tell me how?

Defendant: I did it.

Dispatcher: Okay, what happened? What happened…can you…what’s your name?

Defendant: Lynn.

Dispatcher: Lynn? Lynn.

Defendant: Are you in Naperville?

Dispatcher: Yea I am. Where are you at?

Defendant: I’m in Naperville.

Dispatcher: Okay you’re at…

Defendant: Please send someone, and they’ll have to break the door open I can’t get down there. I’m so dizzy.

Dispatcher: Okay. You’re on a cell phone. What’s your number?

Defendant: Um, I don’t even know it.

Dispatcher: Lynn, what’s your last name?

Defendant: Lemak.

Dispatcher: Okay.

Defendant: (inaudible) is someone coming?

Dispatcher: Yea, yea they are coming. How did you do this, what happened?

Defendant: My husband didn’t want us anymore. You’ll have to break down the door. Okay?

Dispatcher: Okay, alright, I have…I have a couple…

Defendant: (inaudible) I can’t go down there to open it.

Dispatcher: Okay I have…I have an officer enroute okay, and I also have an ambulance enroute. What ah…

Defendant: I have three little children.

Dispatcher: Okay are they in the house?

Defendant: Yea.

Dispatcher: Okay how did…how did you do this, can you tell me?

Defendant: When will they be here?

Dispatcher: They’re on their way there now Lynn. Okay? Are you in your car, are you in front of the house?

Defendant: No, I’m in my bedroom.

Dispatcher: I’m sorry, you’re in your what?

Defendant: Bedroom.

Dispatcher: Bedroom?

Defendant: Yea.

Dispatcher: Okay.

Defendant: I can’t open the door. I hear my dog barking. Tell them to break the door.

Dispatcher: Okay. Can you…can you…

Defendant: What?

Dispatcher: Okay, so you’re in your bedroom right now?

Defendant: Yea.

Dispatcher: Okay. You don’t know what your cellph…

Defendant: I can’t… can’t get down the stairs.

Dispatcher: You can’t get your bedroom door open?

Defendant: No, I can’t get down the stairs.

Dispatcher: You can’t get down the stairs. Okay. Can you sit down for me?

Defendant: (inaudible) I’m laying down.

Dispatcher: Okay Lynn, I need for you to sit down. Okay?

Defendant: I’m laying down.

Dispatcher: Okay, you’re laying down?

Defendant: Yea.

Dispatcher: Okay, do you have any weapons?

Defendant: No.

Dispatcher: Okay, you don’t have a gun or a knife or anything?

Defendant: No.

Dispatcher: Okay. Is your… is your bedroom door locked?

Defendant: No.

Dispatcher: Okay.

Defendant: Are they here?

Dispatcher: No they… they’re… they will be there very quickly. Okay?

Defendant: My dogs are barking.

Dispatcher: Okay.

Defendant: The dogs are really nice.

Dispatcher: Okay, not a problem Lynn. Okay? I do have an ambulance on the scene and they’re going to be waiting for the officers to arrive. Okay?

Defendant: Tell them to come in we need them really bad.

Dispatcher: Okay. They’ll be… they’ll be in there shortly. Okay?

Defendant: Okay.

Dispatcher: Have you been drinking?

Defendant: No.

Dispatcher: Okay. Are you on any medications?

Defendant: Yea.

Dispatcher: Okay, what are you on?

Defendant: Um, Zoloft and Ativan.

Dispatcher: Okay, well…

Defendant: I gave my kids some of the Ativan.

Dispatcher: You gave your kids some of your medications?

Defendant: The Ativan.

Dispatcher: Okay.

Defendant: Hello. Hello.

Dispatcher: Yea I’m still here. Okay, you said you gave your… your children the medications?

Defendant: Yea.

Dispatcher: Okay… okay. They’re… the fire department is there. Okay? They’re waiting for the officers to get there. Okay?

Defendant: Okay.

Dispatcher: I just want you to… to kind of relax. Okay? Where’s your husband at?

Defendant: He moved out.

Dispatcher: Okay… okay. That’s all I needed to know. Are you still in your bedroom?

Defendant: Yea.

Dispatcher: Okay… okay. You said… you said your dogs were nice?

Defendant: Yea.

Dispatcher: Okay.

Defendant: My one dog is right here?

Dispatcher: Okay. You only have one dog.

Defendant: I have two dogs.

Dispatcher: Two dogs.

Defendant: They’re old and they are real nice. And one little cat. Don’t let ’em let the cat run out.

Dispatcher: Okay. We’ll… we’ll keep an eye on the cat. Okay?

Defendant: Yea.

Dispatcher: We’ll take care of that.

Defendant: What? Hello.

Dispatcher: She’s lying on the bedroom floor.

Defendant: Hello.

Dispatcher: Yea, I’m still here Lynn. Okay? I’m still here. I’m talking to my partner. Okay?

Defendant: Okay.

Dispatcher: She’s asking me a couple of questions so if I don’t answer you right away I just want…

Defendant: I hear… I hear ’em.

Dispatcher: You hear them?

Defendant: Tell ’em they can just break the door it doesn’t matter.

Dispatcher: Okay. Okay. She said (inaudible) she just wants help. Okay, yea they’re going to be… they’re going to be breaking the door down. Okay Lynn?

Defendant: Yea, yea.

Dispatcher: Okay, so… I just wanted to let you know. Have you taken anymore meds that you needed to or have you taken your…

Defendant: I did last night.

Dispatcher: Okay.

Defendant: I didn’t want to wake up this morning but I did.

Dispatcher: Okay.

Defendant: But the kids didn’t.

Dispatcher: Okay Lynn.

Defendant: The dogs are barking but they’re real nice.

Dispatcher: Okay, yea they’re gonna… they’re gonna be breaking the door in so they can get to you. Okay? Can you hear them?

Defendant: I can hear them. Upstairs!

Dispatcher: Are they inside?

Defendant: I’m upstairs!

Dispatcher: She’s upstairs. (inaudible background)

Defendant: I’m (inaudible)… I’m right here.

Dispatcher: Are they coming up Lynn?

Defendant: Yea. They’re right here. They’re… my kids. There’s one right in here.

Dispatcher: Lynn?

Defendant: There’s one right in here. (inaudible background)

Dispatcher: Okay. Are they with you Lynn?

Defendant: There’s two boys in the other two bedrooms.

Dispatcher: Are they with her? I hear ’em. Lynn? Lynn?

Defendant: What?

Dispatcher: Are they with you Lynn?

Defendant: They’re right here.

Dispatcher: Are they in the room?

Defendant: No.

Dispatcher: Okay.

Defendant: My daughter is in here.

Dispatcher: Okay, they’re… they’re in the house. They should be coming to you shortly. Okay?

Defendant: They all came in and went out.

Dispatcher: Okay, just let me know when they… when they… when they get there with you. Okay?

Defendant: Some guys are in here.

Dispatcher: They are?

Defendant: Yea.

Dispatcher: Okay, I’m going to let you go. Okay?

Defendant: Okay.

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Lemak interview doesn’t change the facts, law enforcement officials say

The law enforcement officials who led the case against Marilyn Lemak say her comments in a new documentary do nothing to dispute a jury’s finding that she killed her three children in 1999 as an act of spite against her then-estranged husband.

Former DuPage County State’s Attorney Joe Birkett, who acknowledged at trial that Lemak suffered from depression, said her comments failed to address all the spiteful acts toward her estranged husband, David, who had reluctantly agreed to a divorce and had begun dating another woman at the time of the murders.  Before killing the children, Lemak wrote hateful messages about her husband on heirloom furniture, put on her wedding dress and stabbed a photograph of David and his new girlfriend with a knife.

Despite her mental illness, her depression did not meet the definition of insanity, as it never prevented her from being able to distinguish right from wrong, Birkett said.

“She never had a break from reality,” said Birkett, who is now a state appellate judge. “She knew what she was doing. She had a full appreciation of her conduct. It was a combination of depression, revenge and guilt over what she had done to her marriage even before she had killed her children.”

Lemak is one of several women featured in the documentary “Mal de Mere,” which examines how society responds to mentally ill mothers who harm their children.  The Tribune, which allowed the French team access to its archives and to reporters who covered the case, received an unedited copy of the hour-long interview.

In the raw footage, Lemak describes herself as a good mother with a mental illness who “did a terrible, tragic thing.” Though she acknowledges committing a horrific act, she avoids expressly saying she killed her children.  She also never calls them by name, instead referring to them as “my oldest,” “my second” or “my third.”

Her attorney Jack Donahue said Lemak tries to block out details of the crime and some memories of her children.

“There’s no question,” he said. “It’s a defense mechanism.”

Former Naperville police Detective Ray McGury said Lemak had more access to mental health professionals than she suggests in the documentary. Still, he hopes the interview will do more than simply open old wounds.

“If it will help someone out there to get help or recognize warning signs, then that’s something positive,” said McGury, now the executive director of the Naperville Park District. “But it doesn’t change what she did to her children, to David, to her parents or to our community.”

In the documentary, Lemak also described a tedious life in Dwight Correctional Center in Livingston County, where she is serving life in prison. Her parents visit weekly, something Birkett said he was glad to read. He met with her parents — who attended all of her court dates — shortly before deciding not to seek the death penalty against her.

“They loved her but never made excuses for her,” he said. “I admire them for going to see her regularly, but I’m not surprised. It’s a testament to the kind of people they are.”