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The Chicago Tribune
March 24, 2007
By Mary Owen, Tribune staff reporter
Tonya Vasilev told her children that she loved them, and that she was protecting them from being kidnapped and forced into child pornography. Then she stabbed them more than 200 times each, a nationally renowned psychiatric expert testified Friday.
The testimony came during a hearing in Cook County Criminal Court to determine whether the Hoffman Estates woman should be institutionalized for the rest of her life rather than stand trial for murder.
Psychiatrist Philip Resnick of the Cleveland Institute said Vasilev suffered schizoaffective disorder, whose symptoms include paranoia and depression, when she murdered Christian, 9, and Grace Vasilev, 3, in April 2005.
Resnick also evaluated Andrea Yates, the Texas woman determined to be insane after killing her five children in 2001.
Resnick, who was hired by the defense, has interviewed Vasilev twice and reviewed medical and police reports. He said Vasilev believed that a local pastor was part of a conspiracy to kill her family and force her children into pornography.
On the day of the murders, she called the pastor to fend off any threat to her family, Resnick said.
In the month leading up to the slayings, Resnick said, Vasilev believed that her house and phone were bugged and that her mother and husband had been replaced by imposters. Just before the murder, she believed a silver car driving around her neighborhood signaled “imminent risk.”
Vasilev told Resnick during an August 2005 interview that she thought killing her children would allow them to go to heaven instead of having them suffer the fate of being kidnapped, tortured and abused.
Vasilev has a long history of mental illness dating to when she was 12 and overdosed on anti-depressants, Resnick testified.
She is in treatment at Elgin Mental Health Center, where she has volunteered to undergo four electroshock therapy sessions to treat the paranoia, said Vasilev’s attorney, Public Defender Julie Koehler.
Vasilev has been determined unfit for trial six times. Koehler asked the judge to find Vasilev not guilty by reason of insanity and allow her to return to Elgin.
Prosecutors asked the judge to find the defendant guilty but mentally ill, which would allow the prosecution to possibly revisit the case after five years of treatment.
She could face life in prison if convicted.
The hearing will resume April 27 in Judge Lawrence Fox’s courtroom.