Judge Henry Skip Tonigan III 72 received
his juris doctorate degree from Southern Methodist University in
was in private practice prior to becoming a judge in 1983; his practice
focused on civil litigation and real estate law and included handling
condemnation cases for both landowners and government entities.
Elected to the position of circuit judge in 1992, he has served
in all civil and criminal assignments and was chief judge of suburban
Chicagos Lake and McHenry counties from 1998 to 2000. He currently
is presiding judge of the locales civil division.
Among his more noted decisions: In 1996, he held unconstitutional
a no-knock statute that had allowed police to execute
a search warrant without first knocking and announcing their business.
Tonigan and his wife, Becci, live in Barington with their children,
Henry IV Chip and Alexandria.
The Case: People v. Schlager
Seymour and Diane Schlager seemed to have it all. They had two children
and lived in a $420,000 home in an exclusive Chicago suburb. A former
Notre Dame University professor, Seymour was a respected physician
and researcher who earned a six figure salary. He had been selected
to head AIDS research at Abbott Labs. But things werent as
rosy as they seemed.
In September 1990, Seymour began an affair with a young coworker
named Melinda. To keep the affair going, he admitted he became
sneaky and devious and fabricated a number of lies. Among
the fibs: Seymour gave Melinda what she thought was an expensive
diamond ring. He even showed her a forged appraisal certificate
placing the rings value at $62,000. In reality, the ring was
a $70 fake he had stolen from his wifes jewely box.
On another occasion, Diane scheduled a romantic anniversary dinner
at Gordons restaurant in Chicago. Seymour told her to cancel
the reservations because Abbott Labs was sending him to Tokyo on
business. Although he did ring in the New Year with a trip, his
destination was the Chicago Hotel Intercontinental with Melinda,
whom he took to Gordonstwice. After the weekend tryst,
Seymour gave his wife a full account of his trip to Tokyo,
including the name of the inflight movie he watched.
On Feb. 12, 1991, Seymour and Diane sent the kids to bed, watched
the 10 p.m. news, and retired to the bedroom. After Diane got into
bed, Seymour began pacing. When Diane asked him what was wrong he
said he was just nervous and she should go to sleep. A short time
later Diane woke up because Seymour had been getting in and out
of bed. She also thought she heard crinkling noises.
At that point Diane noticed one of the bed pillows was lying on
the floor, covered with plastic.
Seymour then left the bed oom and Diane dozed off. A short while
late she awoke and discovered her husband in the living room. He
followed Diane back to the bedroom, began crying, and told her he
was depressed. Diane suggested they call a psychiatrist, but Seymour
refused. He then climbed on top of Diane, held her down, and said
he thought he was having a nervous breakdown. She agreed and tried
to console him, but he rolled away and told her not to touch him.
Diane once again tried to get a little sleep.
Sometime after 4 a.m., she awoke to find her husband sitting at
the edge of their bed. Seymour reached down, grabbed the plastic-covered
pillow, jumped onto his wife, and forced it over her face in an
attempt to smother her. After struggling for a few minutes, one
of them kicked over a lamp. When it crashed to the floor, Seymour
let Diane up. As she screamed fo the kids to call 911, Seymour muttered,
What am I doing? What am I doing? Youre my wife. I love
Hoping to trigger the homes burglar alarm, Diane made a break
for the front door. Seymour beat her to the punch and deactivated
the alarm. Diane grabbed a kitchen knife and ordered her husband
to sit on the couch until the police arrived.
After Seymour was arrested, he told the police that he had been
under unbearable stress at work and had not slept more than 30 to
45 minutes in the 48 hours before the attack. He also informed the
officers he had tried to kill himself using the plastic bag.
He said the pressures of AIDS research and leading a double life
led him to self-prescribe Calan SR. The drug, according to defense
witnesses, can cause severe sleep dysfunctions, insomnia, and violent
dreams. Seymour claimed to suffer from bad dreams prior to the attack
on his wife. Many witnesses testified, including Diane and the Schlagers
16 year old daughter, both of whom said Seymour told them three
to four weeks before the attack that he had stopped taking Calan
SR. Arresting officers and Seymours mistress also took the
stand. Finally, the state played an audiocassette Seymour made for
his children prior to trial in which he discussed his affair with
Melinda, denied he ever admitted to the crime, expressed remorse,
and explained he never intended to harm Diane.
The court also discovered Seymour had a fake PhD. Given the state
of the evidence, Seymour did not testify.
Seymour was found guilty of attempted murder and Judge Tonigan
sentenced him to 13 years in p ison. Seymour appealed, alleging
that his trial counsels performance was constitutionally deficient;
the Illinois Appellate Court rejected his claim. After the Illinois
Supreme Court denied him leave to appeal, he filed a petition fo
a writ of habeas corpus in federal court. The district court denied
the petition and appeals.
The defendant went from giving fake rocks to pounding rocks,
said Judge Tonigan, with plenty of hard time to work on his