Mother accused of knifing sons unfit to stand trial

Sunday, March 3, 2002

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- As far as neighbors were concerned, Dr. Ellen Feinberg was an exemplary mother, the wife of a surgeon who gave up her own medical practice to spend time with her two sons.

So when police invaded their upscale neighborhood and Feinberg was accused of stabbing her eldest to death and wounding her youngest, they had no explanation.

"The brain is a very strange thing. I don't know if snapped is the right term, but I don't think she consciously did this," said Al Ryle, a next-door neighbor for 10 years.

Feinberg, 43, was ordered held without bond in a mental health facility Friday by Circuit Judge J.G. Townsend, who agreed with defense attorneys that she is unfit to stand trial in her current mental condition.

The mother, described as suicidal after her arrest, is charged with first-degree murder in the Thursday afternoon death of Adam Feinberg, 10, and attempted murder in the stabbing of 6-year-old son Matthew, who was in critical condition in an Urbana hospital.

In court documents, defense attorneys said Feinberg was under the care of a psychiatrist and intends to use an insanity defense at trial. If convicted, she faces up to 60 years in prison for murder and 30 years for attempted murder.

Neighbors weren't the only ones trying to figure out why a seemingly devoted mother would turn on her children.

"At this point and time we don't have all the facts and details," said Champaign County State's Attorney John Piland.

Piland said any court action is on hold until Feinberg is found fit for trial. The judge ordered another evaluation within 30 days.

At Feinberg's arraignment, Assistant State's Attorney Elizabeth Dobson said Feinberg called authorities shortly before 4 p.m. Thursday and said "she had killed her children and wanted to be killed by the police."

Dobson said Feinberg, covered with blood, told officers they would find her sons in the basement and a bedroom, and a knife in the kitchen sink.

Police said only the mother and children were home at the time of the attack. Police and Piland refused to discuss any other details.

Nobody answered the door at the Feinberg home Friday.

Inactive medical license

Neighbors said the father, Samuel Feinberg, is a surgeon at Christie Clinic and the mother a pediatrician.

The state Department of Professional Regulation did not have a record of a medical license for an Ellen M. Feinberg but did have one issued in 1990 for an Ellen M. Hochberg at the same address.

A spokesman said the license was changed to inactive in 1999, meaning the holder cannot practice medicine. There was no record of disciplinary action against the holder.

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