BLOOMINGTON — The day before Monroe Elbert confessed to stabbing his wife with a butcher knife, she expressed fears to her mother that her husband of five years may kill her, the victim’s mother said Friday after Elbert’s arraignment on murder charges.
The conversation via text message went like this: "'Mom, I’m afraid he’s gonna kill me.' Then I told her to get out,” recalled Melissa Pendley.
But Nicole Elbert, 30, stayed with her husband long enough to engage in one more argument, this one over the texts she exchanged with her mother.
According to Bloomington police, Monroe Elbert called 911 on Feb. 5 and reported that he had just killed his wife. Officers found the 50-year-old suspect outside the couple’s apartment at 610 N. McLean St., wearing blood-stained clothes and carrying a large butcher knife.
Pendley learned of her daughter’s death when authorities came to her home in LeRoy.
“It was a shock,” said Pendley, who acknowledged concerns about her son-in-law’s disposition.
“I always thought he was weird. He was always really quiet,” said Pendley, adding the couple previously attended counseling and anger management sessions.
Elbert pleaded not guilty Friday to four counts of murder and two counts of aggravated battery of a child related to injuries to his stepson.
A large crowd of supporters that included Pendley attended Friday's arraignment, wearing T-shirts depicting the victim surrounded by the words "Justice for Nicole." A vigil was also held in her honor Thursday night at Bloomington's Franklin Park.
Nicole Elbert leaves behind five children ranging in age from 1 to 11. The three youngest, ages 9, 3 and 1, were placed with Pendley about a month ago after the Department of Children and Family Services removed the children because of abuse allegations involving the 9-year-old. Two other children, ages 11 and 10, live with their fathers.
The Elberts were the parents of the 3- and 1-year-old girls.
The aggravated battery charges against Elbert relate to two incidents in July and October 2017 in which his stepson, who was 8 at the time, suffered a serious head injury and a fractured leg.
The boy denied to authorities in October that he had been abused and the Elberts told hospital staff in July that the boy had fallen on the stairs.
During his interview with police, Elbert said he followed his wife upstairs where she was packing her belongings to leave. The couple continued to argue over the exchange between mother and daughter that he reportedly saw on her cellphone. Elbert then stabbed his wife with a knife he had brought from the kitchen, according to a probable cause statement from the McLean County State’s Attorney’s office.
During that same police interview, Elbert confessed to grabbing his stepson by the leg and hitting the child’s head on the garage door, an injury that required five staples by medical personnel.
Elbert is scheduled to be back in court March 22.