Two Geneva sisters convicted of neglecting their elderly mother in the final weeks of her life were spared prison time Friday.
Kane County Judge Allen M. Anderson sentenced Jill Barry, 55, and Julie Barry, 48, each to 24 months of conditional discharge, 150 hours of community service and a $750 fine. The sisters, convicted in August of criminal neglect of an elderly person, had faced up to three years in prison.
"Any sentence imposed by me will not change or alter the harm done to Mrs. Barry," Anderson said, referring to the sisters' mother, Mary Virginia Barry, who died seven days after paramedics found her covered in open bedsores and severely malnourished in the family home April 20, 2007.
Anderson said he considered sending the Barrys to jail but found they were unlikely to commit a similar offense and had not contemplated hurting their 84-year-old mother.
Under conditional discharge, the sisters could be resentenced if they commit another crime but are not required to report to the county probation office.
Defense attorney Gary Johnson said his clients plan to appeal their convictions.
"We still feel as though they're not guilty. All that said, we think the sentence was very fair," he said.
In May, Anderson acquitted the Barrys of a charge alleging neglect led directly to their mother's death. But he found them guilty later of a similar charge alleging the death was aggravated by neglect.
At trial, the state called paramedics and medical experts who testified about the elder Barry's soiled sheets, her rapid weight loss, the severity of her bedsores and ants seen crawling on her body.
The defense argued the sisters made a "good faith" effort but ultimately struggled to provide adequate care as Mary Virginia Barry refused to go to a nursing home and became increasingly combative in the years following a stroke in 2004.
On Friday, the sisters appeared to wipe away tears after asking Anderson for probation rather than prison time. "It's important to me that you understand the devastation your guilty decision has had on me," Jill Barry said.
Also testifying as a character witness for Jill Barry was longtime friend James Skaar, a Geneva lawyer who described her as "one of the nicest people I've known" and said he knew personally of the difficulties associated with caring for an elderly relative.
"Unless you've been there yourself, I think it's pretty difficult to understand," Skaar said.
Kane County State's Attorney John Barsanti, who prosecuted the case, noted that neither sister had prior criminal records in recommending probation and community service to the judge. He said their trial and convictions alone would act as a deterrent.
"I don't believe either of these defendants intended their mother any harm," he said. "On all sides, this is a tragedy."