Lemak divorce deal reached

David Lemak, in his first public statement since the 1999 burial of his three slain children, said Thursday he agreed to a financial divorce settlement with his ex-wife only to spare her parents the expense of financing her murder defense.

A statement read by his attorney, Anita Donath, said Lemak "recognizes that the Morrisseys [William and Carol] have suffered a tremendous loss as well--the loss of three wonderful grandchildren. He understands that the Morrisseys are also victims in this tragedy and further civil litigation would be a costly burden to them. He does not want to perpetuate their suffering.

"In no way does Dr. Lemak intend this settlement as any comment on the criminal case against his ex-wife. His offer was made to Mr. and Mrs. Morrissey; he would have made no such effort directly to Marilyn."

Standing outside the Wheatoncourtroom where a judge earlier approved the confidential financial settlement, Donath said: "These cases surround a profound personal tragedy, and justice cannot fashion an adequate remedy to right the wrongs suffered. He does not want to seek financial gain to compensate him for the loss of his children."

Lemak's ex-wife--who Thursday legally retained her maiden name of Morrissey--is accused of the March 1999 overdose and suffocation slayings of the couple's three children. She is facing the death penalty.

Prosecutors say she was distraught over the couple's pending divorce. Defense lawyers say she was legally insane at the time of the killings.

The couple was legally divorced in 1999, but distribution of the marital assets, estimated at about $1.2 million, was delayed pending the outcome of the murder trial.

Last year, citing mounting legal bills, Morrissey's attorneys asked for an early release of about $200,000. Lemak objected, and the issue was put off.

But during the past several months, Lemak discussed a settlement with Morrissey's parents. They were paying most of their daughter's legal bills out of their retirement savings.

DuPage Judge John Elsner heard Lemak and Morrissey questioned by their attorneys Thursday.

They were asked if they understood the agreement, if they would keep it confidential and if they knew both were waiving all future claims against each other.

Donath said it was Lemak's "intent to secure some degree of privacy for those involved, and he will not publicly disclose the terms of the settlement agreement."

Standing a few feet from where Morrissey was sitting in her blue jail jumpsuit and in handcuffs, Lemak answered the questions. It was one of the few times the former couple has seen each other in court, with Lemak appearing never to look at her and with Morrissey giving only a brief look in his direction.

When Morrissey was asked the same questions, she started to cry softly as she responded.

Elsner said he read and approved the confidential agreement and returned all copies to the attorneys, saying he wouldn't put a copy in the court record.

Daniel Kuhn, Morrissey's divorce attorney, said: "Both sides feel this was a good all-around settlement; it was the right thing to do. I have to respect Dr. Lemak for his cooperation." He added Morrissey was never involved in the negotiations.

Kuhn had originally argued that under state law, the criminal charges would not affect the division of marital assets, claiming his client was due 50 percent of the more than $1 million.

Donath, on behalf of Lemak, argued that Morrissey's role in the demise of the family permitted her no financial claim.

Both sides said they expected a wrongful death lawsuit Lemak filed against Morrissey to be dismissed within several days. He filed the suit in January to tie up her finances should she have received some of the marital assets.

Morrissey's murder trial is on hold until the Illinois Supreme Court decides if Lemak has to submit to a pretrial deposition about Morrissey's mental health prior to the children's deaths.

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