Man who set woman on fire, killing her, may get more freedom

FOX 32 NEWS - A man who killed a woman more than a decade ago by setting her on fire is fighting for new freedoms from the mental health facility where he was sentenced.

“I think the community should be terrified, this man should never be allowed to walk the streets again,” said Leslie Blankenship, who's mother was killed in 2004.

Blankenship says she too is terrified of what Lawrence Hucksteadt might do with any additional freedoms a court might give him.

Huckstead is serving time at the Elgin Mental Health Center after being found not guilty by reason of insanity in the murder of Blankenship's mother, 69-year-old Ellen Polivka. She worked as a part time receptionist at the Centegra Behavioral Health facility in Woodstock.  

“She was a wonderful mother, I was very blessed to have her as a mother and my children were blessed to have her as a grandmother," Blankenship said.

Hucksteadt walked into the Centera facility carrying a paint can full of gas, which he tossed on Polivka. He then lit a match setting her on fire. She died five weeks later.

“If he's capable of doing what he did to my mom, he's capable of just about anything. And I don't ever want a family to go through what we've gone through and what we continue to go through fighting to keep him locked away,” Blankenship said.

During previous court hearings, The Department of Human Services convinced a judge to grant Hucksteadt passes to move between buildings at the secure mental health facility, and then to have supervised off site trips to see counselors because he's doing better on his meds. Now, they want supervised visits to places like libraries and health clubs.

Blankenship believes that's terribly risky.

“I'm going to continue to fight until the day I die,” she said.

Hucksteadt’s case goes back before a judge in Woodstock on Friday.

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