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A Contemporary Example

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  • A Contemporary Example

    Accused baby killer has tumor

    Defense says mass in her brain could have led to the severing of infant's arms

    MCKINNEY - A mother accused of severing the arms of her 10-month-old daughter has a brain tumor that could have caused the psychotic hallucinations her defense says led to the killing, a Collin County Jail psychiatrist testified Friday.

    The cancerous tumor in the middle of Dena Schlosser's brain and its possible effects were not part of the 37-year-old Plano woman's capital murder trial in February, which ended with a deadlocked jury and a mistrial.

    At a hearing Friday, Schlosser waived her right to a jury trial. She will allow state District Judge Chris Oldner to decide the case. Oldner said he will render his verdict April 7 after reviewing transcripts of the first trial.

    During seven days of testimony in February, three psychiatrists testified that Schlosser was mentally ill, did not know right from wrong and therefore was legally insane when she cut off the arms of her infant daughter, Maggie, in a crib in the family's apartment in November 2004.

    Jurors heard only a brief mention of a possible tumor in testimony from Dr. Joseph Black, who treated Schlosser at the North Texas State Hospital in Vernon after she was sent there after a February 2005 ruling that she was incompetent to stand trial.

    David Haynes, Schlosser's attorney, said he knew little about the tumor at the time of the trial and did not make the matter part of his case.

    At Friday's hearing, Dr. Xiaoyan Wu, Collin County's jail psychiatrist, testified that a counselor at the jail had kept Black's records locked in a desk until three weeks ago.

    After reviewing them, Wu said she instructed a neurologist to give Schlosser an MRI. It revealed a lesion in the right middle part of Schlosser's brain, the doctor said.

    Wu said it is possible the tumor created a condition known as peduncular hallucinosis, with symptoms such as vivid, recurring hallucinations, sleep disorders and problems with motor skills.

    Testimony in the first trial showed that several times in the year before the killing Schlosser had religious-based hallucinations and delusions that she thought God wanted her to kill the child.

    In jail, Schlosser once lost her balance, fell and fractured a bone, Wu said.

    Wu said that while Schlosser's hallucinations were consistent with a brain tumor, she was not certain that they were directly linked.

    Haynes said after the hearing that he believes Black's records were mislaid by the Collin County Jail counselor by mistake. "These things happen," he said.

    Collin County prosecutor Curtis Howard said Black's records were available to both sides and were admitted into evidence in the case.

    "It was Dr. Wu who didn't know about it because she was a witness and not in the courtroom," he said.

    Howard said the recent MRI revealed more about the mass in Schlosser's brain than had been in Black's records.

    Wu testified that Schlosser is currently not receiving treatment for the tumor. A neurosurgeon needs to be called in to evaluate her, Wu said.

    Haynes said he was confident that Oldner would see the case as 11 of the 12 jurors saw it last month. Only one held out for conviction.

    Both sides agreed not to present evidence to the judge that was not presented in the first trial. But they did so only after Wu took the stand and testified about Schlosser's brain tumor.

    Haynes said the judge can take that into consideration as he decides the case.

    If convicted, Schlosser would face life in prison. If acquitted by reason of insanity, she likely will be sent to a state mental hospital for treatment.

  • #2

    Thanks for posting this fairly new incident. I remember this from a coupld of years ago.

    It brings up another thing....

    If I am "sick" with the flu...I go and get medicine or lessen my 'to do " list until better.

    If I am "sick" from arthritic pain,I take appropriate,even possibly illegal, steps to alleviate the pain.

    If I was "sick" and suffered from bi-polarism,I would take measures to balance myself out.

    Yet...time and time again...people who KNOW something is wrong with them from far WORSE conditions continue to avoid seeking treatment for these serious problems and wind up tossing their kid into the microwave...cutting their arms off...or even setting them on fire.

    It makes me wonder if these serious afflictions are somehow pleasing to the afflicted party. Is it possible that the changes made to the brain "turn on" these people? Because,I cannot figure out why a mother or father would commit such acts knowing they are suffering from tumors or v.d.

    Charles Whitman,the Austin sniper from 1966, was well aware of his condition and requested that after his death that the coroner check for a tumor. He was correct. He did have one.

    But why wait until after shooting 30+ people ???
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    • #3
      My personal theory is... the man says below:

      "The very emphasis of the commandment: Thou Shalt Not Kill, makes it certain that we are descended from an endlessly long chain of generations of murderers, whose love of murder was in their blood as it is perhaps also in ours."
      - Sigmund Freud

      This really must have something to do with it - when one's mental faculties become impaired by tumor or mental illness, I think the brain must simply go on autopilot and revert to the darkest instincts of primitive man - to kill and possibly to mutilate.

      As found elsewhere on the site: "Many early peoples were cannibalistic, just as a means of survival during hard times. Even in "civilized" times, incidents such as those at Donner Pass prove that 'civilization' may be a thin veneer indeed. Looking back at Albert Fish, Ed Gein, Nikolai Dzhurmongaliev, Andrei Chikatilo, Issei Sagawa, Jeffrey Dahmer, and so many others, we do sometimes wonder if somehow the instincts of our primitive ancestors, for whom murder was certainly commonplace, and ritual mutilation and cannibalism were not unusual, have managed to remain hidden within our own genetics."

      My book on forensic pathology also gives some horrific examples of such; in a nursing home where many of the elderly residents suffered from Alzheimer's or other mental disorders, one of the patients literally dismembered another with a steak knife for no apparent reason. For some reason, very likely that identified by Freud, people with no known history of violence become capable of committing acts of extreme violence. I remember the photos of the nursing home - the victim put up quite a struggle and there was blood covering the floor and all visible walls.

      Food for thought.