Betty Loren-Maltese reunites with daughter

February 29, 2012 5:00:00 PM PST
For the first time in nine years, former Cicero town president Betty Loren-Maltese is living with and raising her daughter.

They were separated when Loren-Maltese went to prison after being convicted of corruption. The conviction cost Loren-Maltese her freedom, possessions, property, and custody of her adopted daughter, Ashleigh Maltese.

Her teenage daughter about a month ago called her up and wanted to start anew.

"If you lose someone that you really care about, that's the worst hurt," said Loren-Maltese.

Ashleigh, 14, was only five when Loren-Maltese went to prison following a 2002 corruption conviction.

The court ordered Ashleigh, whose godfather is former alderman and prison inmate Ed Vrdolyak, to live with Loren-Maltese's estranged sister in Alabama.

"When we'd have to make presents for Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day, it just tore me to shreds inside," said Ashleigh.

At first, Loren-Maltese hid the truth, telling Ashleigh she was merely working in a prison.

"I called home one night, and my mother says, 'Ashleigh doesn't want to talk to you,' and I said, 'What are you talking about?' She says, 'She found out on the computer that you're in prison and she's adopted,'" said Loren-Maltese.

Over the years they slowly reconciled, and when Ashleigh's relationship with her aunt became strained... She left a month ago to live with Loren-Maltese, who got out of prison in 2009.

"I've had so many dreams over the years where we get reunited again and we'd be happy, and I'm just glad that's finally coming true," said Ashleigh.

These days, Ashleigh, who is a talented artist, does not dwell much on the past.

"We don't talk about the politics really," said Loren-Maltese.

"The only main thing I need to know about was my mom was framed for a crime she didn't commit," said Ashleigh.

Loren-Maltese says she is still learning how to parent, but she offered some advice for another former public official headed to prison - former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.

"He's got to spend every waking moment with the girls," said Loren-Maltese. "I know people say, all right, crimes are committed, whatever, and people have to pay, but I don't think people realize the effect it has on the kids."

Loren-Maltese is still working out the custody issue in the courts, but does not expect her sister will contest.