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CPS Says Mother Gave Hint Before Killing Baby

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Her method was unique, but the case of a mother who admitted killing her baby daughter by severing the child's arms bears striking resemblance to the high-profile cases of other Texas women who suffered mental illness before killing their children.

Dena Schlosser, 35, was charged with capital murder Monday after calmly telling a 911 operator that she had cut off the arms of 11-month old Margaret. Police found Schlosser sitting in her living room, covered in blood, a church hymn playing in the background.

Schlosser's husband, John, told an official with Texas' Family and Protective Services that his wife had referenced a Bible scripture the night before the killing and told him she wanted to "give her children to God," according to an FPS affidavit that led a judge to award the agency temporary custody of the couple's two older children.

Jennifer Leung wrote in the affidavit that John Schlosser did not appear alarmed by his wife's comment or see it as a sign that she would harm her child.

"The FPS was greatly concerned about Mr. Schlosser's comments and because he had not taken measures to protect the infant," Leung wrote.

John Schlosser said he can't make sense of what has happened and wants his daughters back, Dallas-Fort Worth television station KTVT reported Tuesday night.

Legal and psychiatric experts say the high-profile cases are no more common in Texas than in other states, but the brutal methods have garnered attention.

Andrea Yates drowned her five children in the family's Houston bathtub in 2001, and East Texas mother Deanna Laney last year bashed her three sons' skulls with rocks, killing the two eldest and maiming the toddler.

Another woman from the suburban Dallas town of Plano, where Schlosser lives, suffered psychotic delusions before drowning her daughters last fall. And a woman in Brownsville is accused of helping her common-law husband behead her three children.

"Texas seems to be a lightning rod," said George Parnham, the Houston attorney who defended Yates. "I don't necessarily go with the idea that we're wackos down here. We are when it comes to women's health care, I'll tell you that."

Parnham said the attention on the Yates case led media to pay more attention to the cases that followed, creating an illusion that Texas has more mothers killing children.

Texas also may bring the media attention on itself, with the aggressive way it prosecutes the cases, said DePaul University law professor Michelle Oberman, who has written extensively on mothers who kill their children.

"It gears up the criminal justice system for a death penalty prosecution, rather than approaching the cases as instances of profound mental illness," Oberman said.

Oberman added that Texas has one of the toughest insanity standards in the country, which has led to dramatically different verdicts in similar cases.

Yates, who had a history of schizophrenia and postpartum depression, was convicted of capital murder in the deaths of three of the children and is serving a life sentence. Laney was acquitted of capital murder by reason of insanity after psychiatrists agreed psychotic delusions kept her from knowing right from wrong.

Schlosser's history of mental illness, her confession to a 911 operator and her apparent religious connection are similar to Yates and Laney. And the method Schlosser used shared the bizarre, brutal nature of Laney's rocks and Yates' systematic drowning.

"To actually sever the arms suggests something special was going on," said psychiatrist Phillip Resnick, who testified in the trials of Laney and Yates. "It suggests on its face that there was some specialized psychotic thinking, but you just don't know."

Authorities discovered the grisly scene at the Schlossers' apartment Monday after Schlosser's husband called a day-care center and asked staffers to check on his wife and daughter.

Day-care workers called 911 after talking to the mother; an operator then called Schlosser.

An officer had to remove a knife from Schlosser's hand, according to a search warrant affidavit released Tuesday. The baby was found in her crib, both arms severed at the shoulder, and died at a hospital a short time later.

Authorities said the two older daughters in the family, ages 6 and 9, were at school when police arrived, and that their father was at work.

Schlosser, who had a history of postpartum depression, had been investigated on child neglect allegations this year, but Texas Child Protective Services had recently closed a seven-month investigation, concluding that Schlosser did not pose a risk to her children. Neighbors said she seemed to be a loving, attentive mother.

Child-protective officials were interviewing Schlosser's daughters and would talk to the father before deciding whether to remove the girls from the home.

In January, the agency was called to the home after Schlosser was seen running down the street, with one of her daughters bicycling after her, authorities said. When officials arrived, the child told them her mother had left her 6-day-old sister alone in the apartment.

Schlosser appeared at the time to be suffering from postpartum depression and having a psychotic episode, said Child Protective Services spokeswoman Marissa Gonzales.

Schlosser was hospitalized, and later agreed to seek counseling and saw a psychiatrist, Gonzales said.

"At the time we closed the case, we had been assured that Mom was stabilized and that she was not a risk to herself or her children," Geoff Wool, spokesman for the Family and Protective Services Department, said.

A capital murder charge in Texas carries only two possible sentences: life in prison or the death penalty. Prosecutors did not say whether they plan to seek the death penalty.


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