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Man convicted of Woodstock murder given some leeway at mental health facility

Published: Thursday, July 3, 2014 4:34 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, July 4, 2014 12:25 a.m. CDT

WOODSTOCK – A McHenry County judge granted a mentally ill man a few more privileges, while the victim’s daughter objected to any freedoms for the man who poured gasoline on and lit a match to her mother.

Lawrence Hucksteadt was granted unsupervised passes to walk the grounds at Elgin Mental Health Facility, where he’s been detained since being found guilty but mentally ill for the 2004 murder of Ellen Polivka. Hucksteadt will be allowed to walk from one building to another in the fenced-in, security-patrolled campus.

Polivka, 69, was working as a part-time receptionist at a mental health clinic in Woodstock in 2004 when Hucksteadt walked in carrying a lit cigarette and an open paint can full of gasoline. He tossed the gasoline on Polivka and lit a match.

She languished in a medication-induced coma and died five weeks later.

Dr. Carole Ann Rosanova testified that Hucksteadt’s mental ­illness is in remission with the help of heavy anti-psychotic medications. He hasn’t shown aggression and is well-liked in treatment. It was statements like that that caused Polivka’s daughter, Leslie Blankenship, to sob silently in court.

Outside the courtroom Friday, Blankenship feared this small concession was the first step to releasing Hucksteadt back into the community. She vowed to fight it every step of the way.

A McHenry County judge in 2010 ordered Hucksteadt to remain in a secure state facility until 2099, unless otherwise ordered by a court.

‘”I just can’t believe the doctors would even consider privileges for him,” Blankenship said. “My mom didn’t get any of the privileges that he’s getting and they want to give him more?”

While McHenry County Judge Gordon Graham granted the on-site passes, it wasn’t without apprehension. The judge rejected a request from the Department of Human Services, which sought to allow Hucksteadt to have secure off-campus privileges.

“At least see if he can get from one building to another before he goes anywhere else,” Graham said.

“This defendant is too dangerous of an individual to be given these passes,” Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Combs said.

The case is next due in court Aug. 28.

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