McKinney, Texas (AP) — A mother charged with murder for cutting off her baby daughter’s arms in what her lawyers portrayed as a religious frenzy was found not guilty by reason of insanity Friday by a judge.
Dena Schlosser, 38, will be sent to a state mental hospital and held until she is no longer deemed a threat to herself or others.
“My own expectation is that she will remain at the hospital for many, many years,” defense attorney David Haynes said.
Police arrested Schlosser in 2004 after she told a 911 operator she had severed her baby’s arms. Officers found the 10-month-old baby, Margaret, near death in her crib and Schlosser covered in blood, holding a knife and listening to a hymn.
In issuing the verdict, Judge Chris Oldner said Schlosser had met the legal standard for insanity, but did not elaborate. Both the defense and the prosecution had agreed to let the judge decide the case after Schlosser’s previous trial ended in a deadlocked jury in February.
Last week it was disclosed that Schlosser had a brain tumor that defense attorneys said could have caused hallucinations.
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Schlosser glanced toward her former stepfather but said nothing as she was led away.
“We have a just verdict in a just case, but yes, it is bittersweet,” her lawyer said. “She feels it is her best chance to get better.”
The case hinged on whether Schlosser was unable to grasp the wrongfulness of the crime — the Texas standard for insanity.
The judge relied on evidence he had heard during the first trial. Among other things, psychiatrists said Schlosser suffered severe mood swings and religious hallucinations. One doctor said Schlosser told him she wanted to cut off her baby’s arms and her own limbs and head and give them to God.
But prosecutor Curtis Howard said the fact Schlosser told her husband 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 after the verdict.
Schlosser’s brain tumor did not become an issue until last week. A witness in her first trial alluded to a possible brain lesion, but miscommunication between doctors delayed confirmation by a neurologist until weeks after the mistrial.
Bob Nicholas, Schlosser’s former stepfather and the only relative in attendance Friday, said the verdict was the best possible outcome.
“This whole case, 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.”
John Schlosser, Schlosser’s husband, has filed for divorce and has custody of the couple’s two other daughters.
In another similar Texas case, a jury rejected an insanity defense in 2002 from Andrea Yates, the Houston mother who drowned her five children in the bathtub. She won a new trial on appeal and will again use an insanity defense in June.
In 2004 in East Texas, Deanna Laney was acquitted by reason of insanity after killing her 6- and 8-year-old sons by bashing their skulls with rocks.