Woman who killed daughter by cutting off arms, found not guilty

11:14 AM, Apr 7, 2006   |    comments
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A woman accused of cutting off her 10-month-old daughter's arms and leaving the baby in her crib to die was found not guilty by reason of insanity at a retrial Friday. Dena Schlosser, 38, will be sent to a state mental hospital for 30 days. She could then be released if she's deemed not to be a threat to herself or others. Police arrested Schlosser in 2004 after she told a 911 operator she had severed her baby's arms. Officers found the baby, Margaret, near death and Schlosser covered in blood, holding a knife and listening to a hymn. At her first trial, the jury deadlocked on the murder charge in February, with 10 of the 12 jurors saying Schlosser was insane. The deadlock forced a mistrial, and the two sides agreed last week to have Judge Chris Oldner decide the case. Defense attorneys told the judge last week that Schlosser had a brain tumor that could have caused hallucinations before the killing -- an argument not heard by the jury because the tumor hadn't been confirmed by a neurologist until weeks later. Oldner issued the verdict without elaboration Friday morning. Schlosser was quiet as bailiffs led her away. Defense attorney David Haynes said she had hoped for hospitalization because "she feels it is her best chance to get better." "We have a just verdict in a just case, but yes, it is bittersweet," he said. Prosecutor Curtis Howard said he thought that Schlosser was guilty and that there wasn't enough evidence to prove insanity. He said the fact she told her husband afterward that she had "killed the baby" proved she knew what she was doing. "This is a case that could have gone both ways; we knew that," Howard said. The case against Schlosser had hinged on whether she had severe mental problems that kept her from knowing her actions were wrong. Several psychiatrists had testified that Schlosser lost touch with reality, suffered severe mood swings and experienced religious hallucinations and delusions. One doctor said she told him she wanted to cut off her baby's arms and her own limbs and head and give them God. The defense faulted Schlosser's husband for not getting her adequate mental health treatment and also blamed her preacher, Doyle Davidson, who believes only God can cure mental illness. The state argued the defense was trying to deflect responsibility from Schlosser. Prosecutors presented a methodical case, focusing on possible inconsistencies and behaviors that might indicate she knew that killing her baby was wrong. After Schlosser spends 30 days in the hospital, the staff there will report on her mental health, and a judge will decide whether to recommit her. If that happens, she would be reevaluated after six months, and then each year after that. "My own expectation is that she will remain at the hospital for many, many years," Haynes said. Bob Nicholas, who helped raised Schlosser and was her only relative in court Friday, called the verdict the best possible scenario. "This whole situation with Dena was a tragedy," Nicholas said. "We've got the loss of Maggie, who never reached her first birthday. We've got two little girls coping with the loss of their sister and of a loving, caring mother." Schlosser's husband, John Schlosser, has filed for divorce and has custody of the couple's two other daughters. Schlosser is one of three Texas women to seek the insanity defense in recent high-profile cases after the deaths of their children. Jurors rejected the insanity defense in 2002 for Andrea Yates, the Houston mother who confessed to killing her five children by drowning them in the family bathtub. She will again use the insanity defense in her June retrial. In 2004 in East Texas, Deanna Laney was acquitted by reason of insanity after she was accused of stoning to death her 8-year-old and 6-year-old sons. By Julia Glick, Associated Press Writer

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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