No one knows for sure if two little boys with big eyes would be
alive today if an Amber Alert went out nationwide as soon as their
mom reported their dad not returning them home on time.
Instead, 26 long hours ticked by. A lifetime, I'm sure, for Jack
and Duncan's mom, Amy Leichtenberg, who had been forced to seek
orders of protection against her former husband in their
contentious relationship and who knew intimately what demons hid
behind a public facade.
I have to wonder what would have been the harm if the Amber
Alert was issued even if Michael Connolly were simply running late
because of daylight savings time, as the local police first
It's a question that fills the days and nights for Leichtenberg,
an unassuming mom who lived in Algonquin before moving to downstate
Now Leichtenberg is living every parent's nightmare, the death
of a child. The death of her boys was no accident. A legal system
that places parental rights of potentially violent noncustodial
parents over the safety of children is to blame.
From more than 20 years working at a daily newspaper before
joining Chicago Parent, I knew Leichtenberg's dilemma too well.
Distressed parents-both moms and dads-frequently called the
newspaper requesting a story about judges placing their kids at
risk, at least from their perspective. Some had documents showing
physical and verbal threats they alleged occurred, yet they
couldn't convince a judge to cancel unsupervised visitation with
their kids. Others didn't have a case at all, just warring parents
misusing the system to try to hurt each other.
As I listened, I always found myself wondering about the kids
caught in the middle with very little, if any, say at all. They
become pawns in the hands of someone who is supposed to love and
Leichtenberg tried to protect her boys. She had proof that their
dad had problems. The court even documented his bizarre behavior
yet forced Leichtenberg to send the children off alone with him to
Destroyed by her grief but determined to make Illinois a place
that better protects children from a similar fate, Leichtenberg has
stepped reluctantly into the public eye.
"They will not die in vain as long as I have a breath,"
Leichtenberg told me recently.
As a mom-turned-advocate, she is working to pass a new law-the
Duncan and Jack Law-that requires an Amber Alert to be issued
immediately in situations where there is an order of protection and
the children are not returned on time. Currently, an order of
protection is not enough to enact an Amber Alert.
It's a proposal that lawmakers must approve without hesitation
so, as Leichtenberg says, "there are no more Duncans and
Tamara is the editor of Chicago Parent and mom of three.
See more of Tamara's stories here.
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