Galesburg mother pleads 'guilty but mentally ill' to murdering her 7-year-old daughter

Samuel Lisec
Galesburg Register-Mail

GALESBURG — Hazel Ivy, 30, pleaded “guilty but mentally ill” in the Knox County courthouse Friday for the murder of her 7-year-old daughter.

Ivy's guilty plea to one count of first degree murder constituted a change from her previous plea of not guilty.

Judge Andrew J. Doyle accepted Ivy’s guilty plea at 11:30 a.m. Friday. Her sentencing hearing will take place at 9 a.m. Sept. 29 in the Knox County courthouse.

Ivy had been facing 20-60 years, eligible for life, for two counts of first degree murder.

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The guilty but mentally ill plea — which was settled by Knox County State’s Attorney Jeremy S. Karlin and Ivy’s attorneys Daniel O’Brien and Christopher Kanthak — limits Ivy’s possible sentence range to 20-53 years, with a mandated 100% of the sentence to be served.

Karlin said after the hearing that he made the agreement in order to guarantee a guilty plea and that since Ivy is already 30 years old, Karlin believes the sentence Doyle will deliver on Sept. 29 will still effectively result in a life sentence. 

Karlin said that the “mentally ill” addition to Ivy’s guilty plea does not in any way change the court’s ability to sentence Ivy.

“By reaching an agreement, I don’t believe I conceded anything,” Karlin said. 

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Galesburg police were notified of a potential homicide at 1567 Knox St. around 5 a.m. on Jan. 24, 2021. Police found Ivy’s 7-year-old daughter, Willow Banks, dead in an upstairs bedroom.

A serrated knife was recovered and blood was found on the bed, walls and floor. A forensic and preliminary autopsy show that Banks died due to strangulation and 24 stab wounds to the face and upper body. 

Detective Travis Smith testified that he interviewed Ivy at the police station, where she stated she had “snapped.”

Karlin said that by guaranteeing a guilty plea and avoiding a trial, law enforcement, witnesses, jurors and employees of his office who are connected to this case can be spared from being exposed to additional trauma.

“In my 29 years of practice, this is one of the most gruesome cases I have ever seen,” Karlin said. “It was having a traumatic effect on these people.”

As of Thursday, Ivy's pretrial was still scheduled for next Monday. Karlin said that Friday's guilty but mentally ill plea was the result of negotiations that began last week.

Karlin said that the negotiations began after the state won its motion regarding being able to present photographs of the crime scene and victim during the trial.

It's natural for attorneys to consider settling negotiations closer to the trial, Karlin said.

O'Brien and Kanthak declined to provide a comment after the hearing.

During the hearing, Kanthak asked the court to seal Ivy's mental examination. 

Court documents show that the defense team hired Dr. Ryan Finkenbine, a forensic psychiatrist and professor of clinical psychiatry at University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria, to conduct Ivy's mental evaluation.

Karlin declined to comment on Ivy's diagnosis but said she had "significant mental illness."

Doyle agreed to seal the mental examination, but said he could not provide authority on Kanthak's other request to seal the pre-sentencing investigation — a report of Ivy's social history and past criminal record.

Karlin said that Doyle has the right to give Ivy the minimum of 20 years and that he can't predict what the judge's sentence will be. 

But after reviewing the "overwhelming" evidence, Karlin said he believes the court should not give Ivy any less than 50 years.