Severe mental illness, not greed, was the reason a former Westerville elementary teacher collected paid leave by falsely claiming her husband had died of cancer and that she also was battling the disease, her attorney said April 6.

Christine L. Gill, 47, of Harrison Township in Licking County, pleaded guilty in January to theft in office and two counts of forgery.

Franklin County Common Pleas Judge William Woods took her mental-health issues into consideration April 6 in placing her on probation for three years rather than sentencing her to prison. He also ordered her to pay $57,275 in restitution from her State Teachers Retirement System account to the Westerville City School District. He fined her $1,000 plus court costs.

"She is very emotionally, mentally disturbed," defense attorney Brian Joslyn told the judge. "Any type of incarceration will spiral her out of control in terms of her mental health."

Joslyn said a pre-sentence investigation ordered by the court and a psychologist's report that he provided confirmed Gill's history of "underlying mental disorders."

She has received in-patient and out-patient treatment for psychotic, depressive and anxiety disorders, he said.

Gill was too distraught to make a statement during the hearing, Joslyn said.

Assistant Prosecutor Jay Moore did not offer a sentencing recommendation but insisted that restitution be ordered.

The restitution covered her salary and benefits and money paid to substitute teachers during her 124 days of fraudulent leave.

Eighty-one days of the leave were covered by contributions from fellow teachers to a shared-leave fund.

School officials contacted Westerville police after becoming suspicious of two periods of leave that Gill took, one in 2013 and another in 2016.

Gill was on leave for 92 days from January to May 2013, claiming her husband was battling cancer.

She told the district her husband died in June 2013, submitting a forged death certificate. Her husband was still alive and married to her.

She took 32 days of leave in February and March 2016, reporting she was being treated for leukemia.

She submitted forged letters from two doctors at Ohio State University's Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital.

Gill resigned in April 2017 just as an investigation began.