Defense faults husband and church in baby’s death

McKINNEY, Texas — In the weeks after her daughter was born, Dena Schlosser cut her wrists with scissors. Her husband said she once ran away from their apartment, leaving baby Maggie alone.

But John Schlosser said he never sought medical help, even when his wife told him she wanted to “give the baby to God” about a week before authorities say she severed the baby’s arms in 2004.

Attorneys for Dena Schlosser, who has pleaded not guilty by insanity, have questioned whether her husband could have done more to help her, saying he and the unconventional beliefs of the family’s church downplayed and normalized her strange behavior.

“You didn’t call about her wrists. You didn’t call about your wife running off. You never called authorities,” defense attorney William Schultz said during cross-examination Tuesday.

John Schlosser said he wasn’t alarmed that she said she wanted to give their baby to God because she acted normally after he calmed her down. He also said it didn’t occur to him to seek help.

“I had had several months of my wife slowly becoming herself again after whatever it was that happened after Maggie was born,” John Schlosser said. “I was relieved to able to have a normal conversation with her again.”

Defense attorneys argue Dena Schlosser, 37, became so mentally ill she could not tell right from wrong in her baby’s death.

The prosecution, which has argued that she knew what she was doing, concluded its case Tuesday with photos of the dead baby. They are not pursuing the death penalty.

Dena Schlosser was arrested after police responding to a 911 call found her in the living room, covered in blood, still holding a knife and listening to a church hymn.

Defense witness Dr. Nasir Zaki testified that the Schlossers never told him about Dena Schlosser’s extreme behavior days before a May 2004 psychiatric appointment. Schlosser left home in the middle of the night and went to a hospital, where she was found passed out on the floor, records show.

The prosecution emphasized that Zaki did not find Dena Schlosser to be dangerously insane during her treatment.

Zaki characterized Dena Schlosser as “delusional and hyperreligious.” He said she told him in May she was staying up nights and reading the Bible, which scared her.

The Schlossers attended the non-denominational Water of Life Church, whose leader Doyle Davidson seeks to exorcise women of a wicked “jezebel spirit,” defense attorney William Schultz said.

The defense called scriptural expert Rev. Kathryn Self, who characterized those beliefs as far outside of mainstream Christianity.

After her arrest, Dena Schlosser was diagnosed with manic depression. In February 2005, a jury deliberated only a few minutes before deciding she was mentally incompetent to stand trial and she was committed to North Texas State Hospital. But in May, a judge decided she was competent.

She had been accused of child neglect in the months before Margaret’s death, but a state investigation found Dena Schlosser did not pose a risk to the 10-month-old or her other two daughters. The case was one of a number of high-profile deaths that led to recommendations to overhaul the state’s child welfare agency.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
AP, via the San Diego Union-Tribune, USA
Feb. 15, 2006
Julia Glick

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