A woman accused of killing her 10-month-old daughter felt that God was commanding her to cut off the baby’s arms as well as her own arms, legs and head, a state psychiatrist testified Monday.
Dena Schlosser saw a TV news story about a boy being mauled by a lion and thought it was a sign of the apocalypse, a delusion that led her to sever the arms of her baby Margaret, Dr. David Self told the jury on the sixth day of Schlosser’s capital murder trial.
“She felt she was basically commanded, in essence, to cut Maggie’s arms off and her own arms off, and her legs and her head, and in some way to give them to God,” said Self, who evaluated Schlosser in the months after her arrest.
Police responding to a 911 call in November 2004 found Schlosser in her living room, covered in blood, still holding a knife and listening to a church hymn. She had sliced deep into her own shoulder and chopped the arms off of her baby.
Schlosser, 37, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and her attorneys are trying to prove she didn’t know right from wrong when Margaret, also known as Maggie, was killed. Prosecutors, who are not seeking the death penalty, argue Schlosser knew what she was doing and should be sent to prison for life. If found not guilty, Schlosser would be hospitalized.
Prosecutors questioned why Self did not mention his chilling account of Schlosser’s mental state in his report for a pretrial competency hearing. Self acknowledged that some of what he learned about Schlosser came as he prepared to testify as an expert witness for the defense.
Schlosser was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis in the months following Maggie’s birth. After her baby’s death, she was diagnosed with manic depression.
“Just because someone is diagnosed with some mental illness, it does not mean that they’re insane,” Assistant District Attorney Curtis Howard said to Self, who agreed.
Self said Schlosser remembered being at an electronics store with her husband the day before the killing. The woman recalled John Schlosser mentioning Maggie’s “little arms,” and she thought of him as a Biblical patriarch planning “something big” because he was buying a clock radio, Self testified.
Self also said Schlosser felt compelled to dress Maggie “as finely as possible” because she planned to give her to God or Doyle Davidson, the pastor of Water of Life Church in Plano, which the Schlossers attended several times a week.
“It is layer upon layer of this craziness, this psychosis,” Self said.
Schlosser was angry about being in jail and had no idea why she was there, Self testified.
“She didn’t understand why she was being locked up in jail for following God’s will,” Self said.
Self evaluated Schlosser in the weeks before a hearing where she was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial. In May, after doctors treated her, she was found competent by a judge.
The defense was to continue its case Tuesday morning.