Texas woman accused of cutting off baby’s arms pleads not guilty by reason of insanity

McKINNEY, Texas (AP) – A woman accused of killing her 10-month-old daughter by cutting off the baby’s arms with a kitchen knife pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity Monday at the start of her murder trial.

Dena Schlosser, 37, said nothing and stared straight ahead, sometimes gently rocking back and forth, as her attorney entered the plea.

Later, during opening statements, her attorney said Schlosser clearly did not know right from wrong during the November 2004 death of baby Margaret.

“This is somebody who at the time was not capable of knowing what she was doing was wrong,” defense attorney William Schultz said. “She didn’t see it coming. … Normally Dena is a sweet woman. She cares, she has compassion.”

Prosecutor Curtis Howard said that while Schlosser obviously had mental problems she did know right from wrong when she killed her daughter.

“At some point that morning, Dena Schlosser put Maggie Schlosser down on the bed and cut off her arms,” he said.

Schlosser was arrested in 2004 after she told a 911 operator she had severed her baby’s arms. Police found Schlosser in the living room, covered in blood, still holding a knife and listening to a church hymn.

The first witness Monday was Steve Edwards, the 911 operator who took Schlosser’s call. As prosecutors played the tape, Schlosser slumped in her chair and pressed her chin into her chest, staring down at her hands.

Schlosser could be heard calmly describing her actions on the tape. When Edwards asked her if there was an emergency, she responded “Yes.”

“Exactly what happened?” Edwards asked.

“I cut her arms off,” Schlosser replied, as the hymn “He Touched Me” played in the background.

“You cut her arms off?” he repeated.

“Uh huh,” she answered.

Edwards testified that he didn’t really believe it when she called, but he still dispatched police.

“Initially, we thought it was probably an overexaggeration,” he said.

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

During opening statements, Schultz offered several examples of Schlosser’s mental illness, saying she had a number of outbursts before the attack in which she growled, shouted or hissed at people.

He said her problems started in her childhood, when she had to have surgery to drain excess fluid from her brain.

“You don’t drill holes into the skull and put tubes in and tubes out and not have any problems,” he said. “The evidence will show she has been sick a long time.”

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