Amy Leichtenberg worried this day would come, and she begged the judicial system to prevent it.
In court documents dating back to 2005, she detailed her estranged husband’s threats against her family and fought unsuccessfully to keep him from having unsupervised visits with their two sons. Michael Connolly violated the orders of protection against him six times, police records said, and he often vowed to kill himself rather than be separated from the boys.
Connolly, 40, disappeared with Duncan, 9, and Jack, 7, on March 8, prompting a nationwide search. Their bodies were discovered Sunday near a Christmas tree farm in a remote area of Putnam County.
Police described the deaths as a double homicide and a suicide, but released few details about the killings. The boys’ bodies were found in the back seat of their father’s 1991 Dodge Dynasty, while Connolly’s body was discovered about 60 yards away.
Leichtenberg declined to comment Monday, but she issued a statement lashing out at the judicial system that allowed Connolly unsupervised visits.
“No parent should have to bury their babies,” she said. “Duncan and Jack, Mommy loves you to the heavens and back.
“I feel that the judicial system failed me,” she said. “I pray that the courts listen to the warnings from other parents like me.”
Though Connolly and Leichtenberg lived in northwest suburban Algonquin for several years, much of their bitter custody battle took place in LeRoy, a small town near Bloomington where Leichtenberg moved with the boys after ending her marriage. She received orders of protection against Connolly there, including a current order, barring him from contact with her.
Connolly, an unemployed pharmaceutical salesman, violated the order six times but was only charged with four misdemeanors between July 2006 and October 2007, McLean County State’s Atty. William Yoder said. He met with Connolly for an hour a few months ago at Connolly’s request and believed him to be “unbalanced,” Yoder said.
He declined to discuss his office’s specific involvement in the custody battle.
“This was a tragic event,” Yoder said. “This had the worst possible outcome.”
Police began a search for Connolly and the boys three weeks ago when he failed to return them after a scheduled visit. McLean Sheriff Mike Emery conceded there was a delay in the Amber Alert about the abduction, saying the department’s initial attempt did not meet all of the criteria required for the notification. Pressed to discuss the delay, the sheriff said he would not criticize the investigation.
At LeRoy Elementary School, where Duncan was in 3rd grade and Jack was in 2nd, the brothers’ desks had been left untouched since their disappearance. Blue and green ribbons, the boys’ favorite colors, were tied to trees, and parents taped pictures of the missing brothers inside their car windshields.
“In small towns something like this affects the whole town, not just one pocket or one neighborhood,” LeRoy Supt. Gary Tipsord said. “We had prepared for a lot of different outcomes, but I don’t think any of us expected this.”
Putnam County authorities discovered Connolly’s car about 5 p.m. Sunday near a Christmas tree farm about 8 miles south of Hennepin. Police say they do not know of any connection between the family and the secluded site.
Police would not say how long the bodies had been there, if they suffered obvious injuries or whether a weapon was recovered.
Connolly’s aunt, Joyce Connolly, said his family rarely saw him after the couple separated.
“I feel sorry for Michael,” she said. “I know that sounds terrible, but he must have been so tormented.”
Court records and police accounts portray Connolly as an abusive husband who tried to force Leichtenberg to stay in their marriage. He threatened to cut open her and her parents and once told Jack that he would find “a younger, prettier, nicer mama,” according to court documents.
When Connolly sensed Leichtenberg was about to leave him in 2006, she said he pressured her to sign a paper giving him custody of the boys if they divorced. He also demanded his wife make a videotape in which she claimed to abuse her sons, Leichtenberg said. It’s not clear she did either.
“He went into a rage again and told me if I didn’t get home he would kill me. I went home, and he told me if I ever take his boys again he would hunt me down and kill me and my parents and cut us open,” Amy Leichtenberg wrote in her petition for an emergency order of protection in July 2005 in McHenry County Circuit Court.
Neighbors realized something was wrong with the couple’s marriage shortly after they moved into their Algonquin neighborhood in 2003. Friends described Connolly as “controlling” and “manipulative” toward his wife and sons. Leichtenberg often would use neighbors’ telephones to call her parents because her husband didn’t like her speaking with them.
“She could never live a normal life,” former next-door neighbor Jim Gerardi said. “That’s the sad part about it, because he was watching every single move she made.”
While Connolly was out of town on a business trip in 2006, neighbors said they helped Leichtenberg pack her car, and she and the kids sought refuge at a domestic violence shelter.
Leichtenberg filed for divorce in May 2006 in McHenry Circuit Court. In her petition, she described hundreds of harassing phone messages her husband left for her and her family.
In the messages, Connolly outlined stipulations for the divorce: He wanted visitation with his sons alone and one day a week with Amy alone and promised not to hurt them, court documents said.
Leichtenberg withdrew the petition without explanation in December 2006. She returned to the family’s home in Algonquin, but neighbors said she hid inside the house and rarely socialized after the reconciliation.
The couple separated again a short time later, and Leichtenberg moved to LeRoy, where a bitter custody battle ignited. She wrote in court documents in April 2007 that he had called her home and her cell at least 18 times.
In a Tribune interview after the boys disappeared, Leichtenberg said Connolly was granted unsupervised visitation rights in December. She said she begged the McLean judge to deny the request.
“All Michael would do is file his own motions, and the judge was basically tired of him and gave him what he wanted.”
What’s Your Take On The Matter? Register and/or sign in and sound off!
You can also twitter the febone_blog