Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Woman Accused of Slashing Daughter’s Throat Found Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity

Maggie Webber, family photo.

After a bench trial that lasted only one day, Illinois Judge George Bakalis found Marci Webber not guilty by reason of insanity in the November 3, 2010, death of her 4-year-old daughter Maggie.

In the weeks leading up to her daughter’s bloody death, Webber was plagued by paranoia.  She believed that sex traffickers were coming to kidnap Maggie, and saw vans following her around.  When the paranoia became too great, Webber slashed Maggie’s throat in the bathtub with a wood-handled knife, creating a deep, 7-inch incision that left the child nearly decapitated.  According to police who responded to the scene, Webber had written the words ”Satan” and “divine mercy = Satan” in blood on the bathroom walls. She also cut her own throat and wrists.  When her teenage daughter Mallory came into the bathroom and saw Maggie’s limp body in a blanket, Webber told her, “Shh. The baby is sleeping.”

Marci Webber. In this booking photo taken after the killing, self-inflicted wounds are visible on Webber's neck.

During the trial, Webber’s defense did not deny the events of that evening. Rather, public defenders Jeff York and Jill Eckhaus argued that Webber was insane when she killed Maggie, and relied on the testimony of the trial’s sole witness: psychologist Gene Wasilyw.  Wasilyw testified that Webber did not know the difference between right and wrong, and ”had a break with reality, and she was not thinking or reacting in a rational manner.”  DuPage County prosecutors, however, said the killing was premeditated, arguing that Webber had been going through financial problems and sedated the child with antihistamine prior to the killing.

The verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity means Webber will not be going to prison, but will instead be involuntarily committed to a psychiatric institution.  The maximum length of her sentence will be determined July 13, when Webber will return to court following evaluations by the Department of Human Services.  York expects the maximum to be set at 100 years — the prison sentence Webber faced if convicted of first-degree murder.  No minimum sentence will be set; Webber will be periodically reevaluated to determine if she is sane enough to be freed.

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