Texas mother charged with murdering her infant daughter
Nov. 22, 2004
Jennifer Emily and Terri Langford
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Tuesday November 23, 2004
PLANO, Texas – (KRT) – A 10-month-old girl died Monday after her mother cut her arms off, police said. The 35-year-old woman, who has suffered from postpartum depression, was charged with capital murder.
Dena Audre Schlosser sat calmly in the living room when officers arrived after receiving a 911 call just before noon. Her clothes were covered in blood and the baby lay in her crib in a back bedroom. The child, whose name was not released, was alive when police arrived and later died at nearby Medical Center of Plano.
Schlosser told police she was responsible for the baby’s injuries but declined to elaborate, police said. Police would not comment about why she may have killed the youngest of her three daughters. They would also not discuss whether investigators recovered a knife or other weapon.
“It doesn’t appear to be accidental. Both arms were completely severed,” Officer Carl Duke said. “She was not talking when she left here. She was very quiet, subdued.”
Plano police said the child’s injuries were horrifying.
“I’ve never had to face anything like this before,” said Detective Bryan Wood. “And, frankly, I’d never want to. “My sympathies go out to the family, and to the first responders on the scene.”
Schlosser’s husband and two other daughters, ages 6 and 9, lived in the downstairs apartment but were not home at the time. The older daughters, who were in school, have been placed in temporary foster care.
Schlosser had received a diagnosis of postpartum depression during a Child Protective Services neglect investigation early this year.
A CPS investigator was called to Schlosser’s home Jan. 15 after she was seen running down the street, followed by her then 5-year-old daughter who was on a bicycle. When police and CPS arrived at the scene, the child told them her mother had left her 6-day-old sister alone in the family’s apartment. None of the children were injured.
“Mom started walking and running from the apartment,” CPS spokeswoman Marissa Gonzales said. “Someone called law enforcement and she was obviously having some sort of psychotic episode.”
Schlosser was taken to a Collin County (Texas) medical center where she was hospitalized for a few days, Gonzales said. Her children were released to their father, who told authorities she had been acting strangely since the birth of the third child Jan. 9.
Once the woman was released from the hospital in January, she agreed to seek counseling and see a psychiatrist, Gonzales said.
The woman kept all of her appointments, and at one time she was given a prescription for a psychotropic drug. But sometime between January and August, the woman was taken off the medication, Gonzales said.
“We had received assurances that mom was stable, from the people who were dealing with her, the professionals,” Geoffrey Wool, CPS spokesman in Austin, Texas, said of her doctors’ decision to take her off of the medication.
CPS caseworkers continued to visit the family through the spring and summer, the last time on July 29.
“She was doing well,” Gonzales said.
The case was closed Aug. 9 and classified with a finding of “Reason To Believe-Neglectful Supervision.”
“At the time we had closed the case, we had been assured she was stabilized and she posed no risk to herself or her children to the extent that you can predict these things,” Wool said.
The baby’s death shocked residents of the apartment complex, which is home to numerous families.
Michael Lujan, 25, who lives in the same building at the apartment complex said he often saw Schlosser and her children having picnics with her children under the trees near their building. He said she stayed home with the children while her husband worked. Her older daughter often rode her bike.
“I’m in shock,” said Lujan, who has two children. “She seemed sweet to me… just like any other mother. She was loving and tended to their needs.”
Others wondered how something like this could happen.
“What would drive a person to do that?” questioned resident Jacob Hopland, 22. “I know kids are hard to handle, but you have to step up and be a good parent.”
Officer Duke said Schlosser was not talking with officers at the police station about what happened. No previous criminal record could be found for Schlosser.
Mood problems are common up to two week after giving birth, said J. Douglas Crowder, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
“That’s the so-called baby blues,” Crowder said. “When it goes longer than that you need to be concerned.”
Postpartum symptoms are the same as those of common depression, Crowder said. Mood swings, loss of appetite, insomnia, fatigue and thoughts of suicide are typical. When at its worst psychotic level, mothers may hallucinate or sometimes conclude that children are hopelessly flawed and better off dead.
But he said violence toward children is uncommon.
Crowder said a law that went into effect last year requires doctors to warn parents of the effects of postpartum depression.
The law was precipitated by the case involving Andrea Yates of Houston who was sentenced to life in prison in 2001 for drowning three of her five children, he said. It is meant to prompt families to seek medical help for women who display symptoms.
Dallas Morning News correspondents Tim Wyatt and Mike Jackson contributed to this report.
Keywords: Dena Schlosser
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