State wants to release mentally ill woman who killed mom

WOODSTOCK – It’s been 13 years since Alice Bair was civilly committed but criminally acquitted for killing her mother, and prosecutors are fighting the state’s attempts to release her.

Alice Bair, 73, was found guilty by reason of insanity for the 2001 murder of her elderly mother, Margaret Bair, during a psychotic episode and an argument over dogs. Alice Bair sat on the 88-year-old woman in her Crystal Lake home, crushing her chest and ribs.

She’s been at a secure mental health facility in Elgin since 2002. The Illinois Department of Human Services recently determined that Alice Bair has progressed far enough in her mental health treatment to be released into the community for outpatient treatment.

Alice Bair believed that her mother had broken into her Crystal Lake home to steal her dogs. She told a neighbor, “that woman I hate came into my house and let my dogs out.”

Alice Bair, it was reported, suffers from chronic paranoid schizophrenia, a disease that causes people to become delusional and imagine hearing things.

If McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather supports the DHS recommendation for her release, Alice Bair would live with a roommate in a supervised apartment setting. The group home, Stepping Stone, is in Rockford.

A similar request was denied by Prather in 2011. A decision is expected Sept. 26.

Alice Bair’s defense attorney, assistant public defender Rick Behof said the group home setting is the next step in her recovery. He noted that Prather had previously granted Bair permission to travel, with supervision, outside Elgin Mental Health Center to connect with outpatient treatment providers and resources.

“This is a natural progression for Alice,” Behof said, adding it would be “a huge step” in her overall recovery.

But Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Combs said Stepping Stone provides no guarantee that Alice Bair will take her medications. When she doesn’t, she’s known to engage in violent episodes, he said.

While Stepping Stone is monitored 24 hours a day by mental health professionals, there are no safeguards – such as armed guards or alarms on all doors – that would prevent Bair from simply walking off.

“The concern we have is this is not a secure facility,” Combs said. “She could leave at any time, there’s nothing preventing her from walking away.”

Alice Bair appeared in McHenry County Court on Thursday, wearing a red blouse and skirt, with thick glasses and her gray hair worn up in a braid. When the hearing was over, Bair remained seated and said, “I want to stay here,” but she was quickly ushered to a holding cell by Behof.

She blew a kiss to her family who sat in the front row. As he was leaving the courthouse, Alice’s brother said he visits his sister about once a month, but talks with her frequently on the phone.

In court documents, Alice Bair was described as “quiet, intelligent and reserved.” She holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Radcliffe College and master’s degree in library sciences from Rutgers University.

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