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The Chicago Tribune
Jason Meisner, Tribune reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
April 14, 2011
A Lakeview mother charged with first-degree murder in the death of her 8-month-old son was suffering from postpartum psychosis at the time, her lawyer said Thursday.
Janet Thies-Keogh, 30, is accused of suffocating her son, Colin, on Feb. 7 in the condo she shared with her husband in the 3900 block of North Ashland Avenue on Chicago’s North Side.
Thies-Keogh, a DePaul University graduate and former marketing account manager, kept her head bowed and cried quietly during Thursday’s bond hearing in the Cook County Criminal Courts Building as prosecutors detailed the frantic phone calls from her husband on the night Colin died.
Prosecutors said the woman’s husband left their Lakeview home at about 6:30 p.m. to play tennis with friends. About an hour later, he called and asked Thies-Keogh how she was doing. “Not good. You’d better come home,” she was quoted as saying.
As he rushed home, the husband called 911 and told dispatchers he thought his wife “may have done something to his baby or herself,” Santini said. In a second call to 911, he said, “My wife just suffocated my baby,” the prosecutor said.
Police arrived and found Colin, Thies-Keogh’s only child, unresponsive on a bed. An initial autopsy was inconclusive, but after further tests, the medical examiner’s office ruled earlier this week that the baby was suffocated in a homicide, court records show.
Thies-Keogh, who is originally from Des Plaines, was arrested Wednesday near her parents’ home, according to police reports, which noted she was “suicidal and taking medication for depression.” She was released Thursday after her family posted a cashier’s check of $50,000 for the bail. She has no criminal background.
Her attorney, Thomas Brandstrader, said Thies-Keogh was hospitalized for several weeks after the baby’s death and then was under intensive psychiatric care. He said she suffered from postpartum psychosis.
“This is the saddest case I’ve ever seen,” Brandstrader said. “Her husband and family are devastated.”
According to Dr. Sarah Allen, a Northbrook-based psychologist who heads the Postpartum Depression Illinois Alliance, as many as 80 percent of new moms experience some form of what’s known as the “baby blues,” which includes mood swings, anxiety and sleeplessness in the weeks after giving birth. About 1 in 5 suffer from postpartum depression, which causes more serious depression and anxiety for up to a year, she said.
But postpartum psychosis is much more severe and can lead to extreme confusion, delusions and sometimes “auditory hallucinations” telling the mom to harm herself or her child, Allen said.
“Only about 1 percent of moms get postpartum psychosis, and only 1 percent of that 1 percent ever harm their child,” Allen said. “We’re talking about a very rare condition that leads to extreme circumstances.”
In 2009 Gov. Pat Quinn commuted the life sentence of Debra Gindorf, of Lake County, who killed her two young children in 1985 in what mental-health experts argued was postpartum psychosis. Gindorf was released after serving 24 years in prison.
Allen said that as bad as the condition is, it is treatable with intensive medication and therapy.
“The key is knowing when to get help,” she said.