BLOOMINGTON — When Dan Stimler is asked about his daughter, Nicole, he struggles to find a starting point.
“There are just so many stories,” he told The Pantagraph on Wednesday. “I don’t know where to begin.”
Stimler, now a resident of Rome, N.Y., is the father of Nicole Elbert, 30, the victim of an apparent stabbing by her husband, Monroe Elbert, on Monday. Since then, Stimler refuses to recognize Nicole by her married name and instead prefers to call her by her birth name, Nicole Marie Stimler.
According to police, Monroe Elbert, 50, admitted to stabbing Nicole on Monday, following an argument over material on her cellphone. He is charged with four counts of murder and two counts of aggravated battery of his stepson, an 8-year-old son Nicole had from a previous relationship.
“She was a wonderful person,” Stimler said, “and a terrific mother.”
She leaves five children behind, ranging in age from 1 to 13 years old.
One of her boys, named J.J., was born with biliary atresia and required a liver transplant when he was just 1, Stimler said.
“He ended up in very serious condition at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago," he said. "When his condition continued to diminish, they needed to perform surgery sooner than planned.
"The plan was to use a cadaver liver," he said. "For some reason, when they did the testing, they realized that wouldn’t work and they needed another donor and so they asked for volunteers from the family.
"Nicole didn’t hesitate.”
In such transplants, doctors prefer not to use the mother because the patient will need care after the surgery, as will the donor.
“But she was stubborn and she said, 'if my liver is going to be what it takes, then we are going to use my liver,'” he said.
The surgery was successful and the boy, now 10, is healthy.
“This is the kind of girl Nicole was,” he added. “She was a loving, giving and wonderful mother to my adorable grandchildren. That is how she should be remembered.”
Her mother, Melissa Pendley of LeRoy, attended Elbert’s court hearing Wednesday at the McLean County Law and Justice Center in Bloomington.
“She will be missed,” a distraught Pendley said before the hearing. “She was a good person. I’m just going to miss her so much.”
Court documents indicated the stabbing followed a domestic violence incident, but family members have been advised not to publicly discuss specifics of the case, Stimler said.
But the news that she died of multiple stab wounds was not easy to take, Stimler said.
“I was surprised, but not entirely shocked,” he said. “I got a message from Melissa that just said, ‘He has killed our daughter.' I was really upset.”
Both parents have received support from social media since the news broke late Monday afternoon.
“Honestly, the outpouring of support from my friends on Facebook has been incredible,” Stimler said. “Everybody is wanting to help, but what can you do? It’s just a help knowing that they are concerned and thinking about us and praying. It has been a sense of comfort in an awful time.”
A memorial service in Farmer City is being planned, but details have not been finalized, Stimler said.
“We know there is going to be a big crowd because she was so loved,” he said. “Nicole was one of the most loving, giving and caring individuals there ever was.”