WOODSTOCK – McHenry County prosecutors Thursday dismissed the remaining forgery charge against former McHenry County Coroner Marlene Lantz, absolving her of all accused crimes.
Lantz, 69, was indicted in 2015 on official misconduct and forgery charges after prosecutors argued she failed to properly dispose of the remains of two fetuses that were kept in the coroner’s office for more than two decades.
The indictment stated that from March 13, 1992, until Lantz left office Nov. 30, 2012, after six consecutive terms as coroner, that she failed to dispose of the body of “Baby Reinert,” also known as “Baby Doe.” As part of her official duties, Lantz should have buried the remains, cremated them or donated them to science, the indictment stated.
The indictment also said Lantz signed a death certificate saying the baby was buried and that the identity of the mother was unknown, and she did so knowing that such information was false.
The charge was dropped Thursday by the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office with prejudice, meaning it is dismissed permanently and cannot be brought back to court.
“While I believe that probable cause existed to charge Ms. Lantz with official misconduct and forgery, after review, I do not believe the evidence against Ms. Lantz amounts to proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally said in a statement.
The forgery charge against Lantz was expected to go to trial Monday. The charge is a Class 3 felony.
Lantz’s attorney, Jim Harrison, said he believed the state concluded that they didn’t have enough evidence to secure a conviction. If the case did go to trial he believed Lantz would have prevailed, Harrison said.
Harrison said he will file a petition in the coming weeks to expunge Lantz’s criminal record. He also said petitions for attorneys fees, expected to be refunded by the county, will be determined at a later date.
Because Lantz was coroner at the time of her alleged crimes, her legal defense will be paid by taxpayers. Lantz was entitled to representation by the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office, which being the entity that charged her, had a conflict of interest. Attorney Mark Gummerson represented Lantz before Harrison took over.
Wilbrandt also previously ordered a special prosecutor to represent the county in the financial matter as there was a conflict of interest present as well. The Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office was appointed to represent McHenry County at that time.
At this point, Lantz has paid more than $150,000 in legal fees out of pocket.
McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt dismissed the official misconduct charges against Lantz back in August, citing that the coroner’s duty was directory and not mandatory so Lantz did not fail to perform a “mandatory duty” as charged in the indictment.
After the decision, Lantz said she was glad to see the case come to a close after two years of financial, emotional and physical struggle.
“I’m just glad it’s done,” she said through tears outside the courtroom, adding that nothing will ever go back to normal.
She said her family, friends and even complete strangers offered words of support and helped her through the incident.
Lantz said she believed the case spurred from her decision not to support former State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi or Sheriff Bill Prim. She openly backed anyone running against Bianchi and supported former Sheriff Keith Nygren.
Lantz objected to a statement made by Bianchi in a Thursday Northwest Herald article where he said he became more cautious when charging others after he was accused and indicted in 2010 on charges of doing political work on taxpayer time. All charges against Bianchi were dismissed after two bench trials.
Bianchi retired this past week from the office after not seeking another term.
Lantz said she plans to leave the state, after living in the county for almost all of her life, as a result of this incident and move to Rensselaer, Indiana, where she previously guest lectured at Saint Joseph’s College.