Mother on trial for killing sons describes killings

Mother on trial for killing sons describes on tape how she smashed their skulls with rocks

Thursday, April 1, 2004 TYLER, Texas – A housewife said the first sign that God wanted her to kill her three boys came Mother’s Day weekend when she saw her 14-month-old playing with a toy spear.

Deanna Laney said she resisted at first, but the signs kept coming. The baby came to her with a rock, and later in the day squeezed a frog, and she believed God was suggesting that she should either stab, stone or strangle her children.

A sobbing Laney recounted in a videotape played at her capital murder trial Wednesday how she smashed her sons’ skulls with rocks to prove her faith to God.

“I was telling him no, and each time it was getting worse and worse, the way that it would have to be done,” Laney said. “I thought it was the Lord saying to me, ‘You’re just going to have to step out in faith. This is faith. You can’t see why. You just got to.”’

The state rested its case and Laney’s attorneys were expected to begin presenting evidence Thursday.

Laney, 39, who homeschooled her children in the tiny town of New Chapel Hill, 100 miles southeast of Dallas, has pleaded innocent by reason of insanity in the deaths of 8-year-old Joshua and 6-year-old Luke and serious injury to a child in the beating of the 14-month-old, Aaron.

Five mental health experts consulted in the case agreed Laney met the standard for legal insanity. But prosecutors want a jury to decide, saying other evidence suggests Laney could tell right from wrong.

The defense is trying to convince jurors that the signs from God were actually psychotic delusions caused by a severe mental illness that made Laney incapable of knowing right from wrong at the time of the killings, the standard in Texas for insanity.

Dr. Park Dietz, a psychiatrist who interviewed Laney in the tape, called her a textbook case of insanity, concluding she did not know right from wrong at the time she attacked the boys.

Prosecutors tried to convince jurors that regardless of whether Laney believed she was doing right by God, she had to have known she was doing wrong by state law. Her first call, prosecutors said, was to 911 to summon authorities.

Dietz said Laney wasn’t thinking about state law when she killed the boys, but acknowledged that she probably knew her act was illegal at the time.

In the videotape, Laney said she believed she and Andrea Yates, the Houston woman who drowned her children, were chosen by God to be witnesses after the world ends. Yates was convicted of capital murder in 2001 and sentenced to life in prison.

Laney said she awoke just before midnight on May 9 and “I just got this feeling that now’s the time.”

She said she went into Aaron’s room and bludgeoned his skull with a rock she had hidden under his crib, but he wouldn’t quit breathing.

“I told the Lord, ‘You’re just going to have to do the rest. I can’t do anymore,”’ Laney said. She said she put a pillow over his head to mute a gurgling sound.

She killed the older boys next, one at a time, guiding them outside and hammering their heads with a heavy rock. She dragged Luke by his feet across the yard so that Joshua wouldn’t see him.

“I don’t remember seeing their faces at all,” Laney said in the tape.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Associated Press, USA
Apr. 1, 2004

Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday April 1, 2004.
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