Father of slain baby testifies

Editor’s note: This story contains graphic details.

McKINNEY – John Schlosser testified Tuesday that he has forgiven his wife since she admitted to him that she killed their youngest daughter by severing her arms at the shoulders.

He went to see Dena Schlosser at the Collin County jail four days after their daughter, 10-month-old Maggie Schlosser, died.

“I just wanted to be able to go and talk to her,” he said. “I just wanted to go and just forgive her. I knew if I couldn’t forgive her, not being able to would tear me up.”

Mr. Schlosser testified for the state, which rested its case Tuesday, the second day of the capital murder trial of Ms. Schlosser, 37. She pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. The state did not present any expert witnesses to counter the defense’s notion that Ms. Schlosser did not know right from wrong.

Prosecutor Curtis Howard has told the jury of five women and seven men that whether she was insane is up to them.

Mr. Schlosser testified that he should have sought help when his wife first showed odd behavior – the day after their daughter was born – when she cut her left wrist with a pair of scissors. He said he looks back now and sees signs he missed. Ms. Schlosser was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis following Maggie’s birth.

“It was something that needed a Band-Aid,” he said about the suicide attempt. “It wasn’t something I had any experience with.”

Mr. Schlosser, who wore a black blazer and a white dress shirt with no tie, spoke softly, and his face frequently turned red. He showed little emotion as he spoke, except when Mr. Howard showed him a picture of Maggie playing on the floor a month before her death.

He closed his eyes and whispered “that’s my daughter.”

Ms. Schlosser, who has not seen her husband since that day at the jail – the day after Thanksgiving 2004 – watched her husband intently as he testified, sometimes turning her head to get a better view. Mr. Schlosser filed for divorce and is seeking to terminate her parental rights to their two surviving daughters, now 10 and 7. The divorce is expected to be final this year.

Postpartum depression

Ms. Schlosser suffered from postpartum depression after the births of her first two daughters, Mr. Schlosser testified. But that illness never developed into the psychosis she was diagnosed with after Maggie was born. Ms. Schlosser took the anti-depressant Zoloft for a month after her second daughter was born.

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Ms. Schlosser was diagnosed in January 2004 – not long after Maggie’s home birth – after she fled the family’s Plano apartment because of a “spirit” inside, records have shown. She left Maggie alone in the apartment and ran down the street with her youngest daughter peddling after her on a bike. Plano police found her screaming and growling on a street corner and took her to a hospital.

Another time, in May 2004, she left their home in the middle of the night and was found on the floor of Medical Center of Plano. Doctors again diagnosed her as psychotic.

Both times, records and testimony show, Mr. Schlosser told doctors that the best place for his wife was at home. During the months after Maggie’s birth, Ms. Schlosser cycled on and off the anti-psychotic drug Haldol. She hated it because she couldn’t breast-feed. Finally, by midsummer, doctors took her off it for the last time until jail medical staff prescribed it after Maggie’s death.

Ms. Schlosser began seeing a psychiatrist once a month at Life Path, which provides mental health care for the indigent. After the first 45-minute session, Nasir Zaki, her psychiatrist, saw her for 15 minutes once a month. She missed an appointment in July 2004 and never returned. The defense, during questioning, hinted that it was because she did not have the money for a co-payment required because of an income change.

Twice Dr. Zaki stopped prescribing Haldol because Ms. Schlosser told him she did not want to take it. Most of the time, Ms. Schlosser and her husband told Dr. Zaki that she was doing well, sleeping, eating and doing a good job taking care of the children.

After the psychotic episode in May, Ms. Schlosser went back to Life Path. Neither she nor her husband told Dr. Zaki about the incident. Child Protective Services, involved since January when Ms. Schlosser left Maggie alone, also did not tell the doctor.

Dr. Zaki testified that he had not heard about that incident until he was told about it in court. He also said that it would be ideal to see some patients longer than 15 minutes, but funding would not allow it.

Despite the many instances where Plano police became involved with his wife’s mental condition, Mr. Schlosser testified that he never thought of calling 911. Not even when she told him that she had cut off Maggie’s arms.

“No, you didn’t,” he told the jury, recalling what he told his wife over the phone. He said he was worried she would hurt herself and never imagined she would use a 10-inch kitchen knife to sever the arms of their youngest daughter at the shoulders.

“She had a tone of voice I had never heard before – emotionless,” he said.

Mr. Schlosser said he called the family’s pastor instead of 911 to see whether someone could check on his wife at their Plano apartment. The pastor – a charismatic self-proclaimed apostle – told Mr. Schlosser to call a fellow church member. Mr. Schlosser called Carolyn Thomas at the child-care center where she worked. Ms. Thomas, Ms. Schlosser’s best friend, called her to find out what happened. Other child-care workers called 911.

Mr. Schlosser said the only time he called 911 in the year his wife was suffering from postpartum psychosis was when the apartment complex called his cellphone the day Maggie died to tell him police were at the apartment.

The morning of Maggie’s death, Mr. Schlosser said he was not worried about leaving his wife alone because she seemed fine.

“I’d had several months of my wife slowly becoming herself after whatever it was that happened after Maggie was born,” he said. He said that he liked having someone to talk to again.

‘See you later’

That morning, Mr. Schlosser said, he took his other daughters to school. His wife told him: “I love you. I’ll see you later,” he said.

He called her again about 8 a.m. and suggested she listen to music.

The state showed Maggie’s autopsy photographs to the jury Tuesday. Ms. Schlosser, who looked down while they were presented, could not see the photos but heard Collin County medical examiner William Rohr describe the pictures to the jury. She wiped her eyes several times as he spoke.

In one photo, Maggie’s arms lay next to her, her inner arms turned upward. Her left hand makes a fist. The palm of her right hand is open.

Dr. Rohr used a hard plastic skeleton to show the jury how Maggie was injured and that the cut of her left arm also removed the shoulder blade.

Dr. Rohr said Maggie showed no other signs of injury or neglect.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
The Dallas Morning News, USA
Feb. 15, 2006
Jennifer Emily

Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday February 16, 2006.
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