Friday, May 2, 2008

Another Mother Found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Valeria Maxon, who has been diagnosed with "bipolar disorder, most recent episode depressed with psychotic features," was found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI) in the drowning death of her son Alex ("Mansfield mom ruled insane in boy's death," May 2, 2008). As with the vast majority of successful insanity defenses, the prosecution and defense agreed on the appropriateness of this verdict, which was delivered by Judge Wayne Salvant. Insanity must be proved by a preponderance of the evidence.

The Star-Telegram article is pasted below in its entirety. Note the description at the end of four other tragic cases of Texas mothers who have been found NGRI since 2001 as a result of their severe mental illness.

"Valeria Maxon believed that she was a witch and that her 1-year-old son, Alex, was the Antichrist. She was certain that her only child was possessed by the devil, was dying and would start the apocalypse and bring about the end of the world.

Soon, according to psychologists who later examined Maxon, she became convinced that water was the only thing that could keep the evil spirits away and save the world.

So on June 30, 2006, while her husband was out running errands, Maxon put her son in the hot tub in the back yard of their Mansfield home and let him drown.

And even now -- nearly two years later -- Maxon thinks she did the right thing.

'She thought it was horrible but that it prevented the end of the world,' psychologist Randy Price testified Thursday during Maxon's capital murder trial.

Later, state District Judge Wayne Salvant found Maxon, 33, not guilty by reason of insanity and ordered that she be sent to a maximum-security state mental hospital in Vernon for treatment rather than to prison for punishment.

'This has been a tragic situation,' Salvant said. 'I'm hoping Mrs. Maxon can get the help that is needed.'

To be found not guilty by reason of insanity, defendants must prove that they suffer from a severe mental illness or defect and did not know their conduct was wrong at the time of their crime. In Maxon's case, no one -- including the prosecutors -- disputed that Maxon was legally insane when she drowned Alex.

'It is not my duty as a prosecutor to seek a conviction, but to see that justice is done," prosecutor Alana Minton said later. "I do believe that justice has been served today.'

Maxon's defense attorney, Joetta Keene, said that she is really a 'gentle soul whose mental illness took over.'

'That mental illness caused her to kill the love of her life,' Keene said. 'We are happy that the state and the judge saw that it was the mental illness that caused Alex's death and realized that Alex's mom loved him.'

During the trial, which was decided by a judge, not a jury, a Texas Ranger, two psychologists and Maxon's sister testified about Maxon's deteriorating mental state, the drowning and a weird tape-recording that was found in the Maxons' Mansfield home.

According to testimony, Valeria Maxon was living in Moldova in eastern Europe when she met her husband, Michael Maxon, through a dating service. She moved to the United States, and, on June 12, 2005, their son, Alex, was born.

In March 2006, they learned that Alex was developmentally delayed, and soon after, Valeria Maxon's mental health began deteriorating.

'She became more and more anxious about Alex,' Price testified. 'She wasn't able to sleep and was extremely concerned about him and she began to develop delusional thoughts.'

Psychologists testified that Maxon became convinced that her son was dying and that it was her fault because he needed her breast milk. She was certain Alex was possessed and would cause the end of the earth. She believed that God sent her a message, telling her water would prevent the end of the world and Alex's suffering.

Maxon was hospitalized at least five times, from May 16 through June 30, 2006, in psychiatric hospitals in Dallas, Florida and California. On June 6, 2006, she attempted suicide by overdosing on Ambien. Doctors diagnosed severe depression with psychotic features and told Michael Maxon not to leave her alone with Alex.

But on June 30, 2006, Michael Maxon left to run errands, and when he returned home, Alex was lying dead and naked on the couple's bed. Officials said Maxon called his wife's family in Europe, put away groceries and the dry cleaning, called a business partner and then dialed 911.

On Tuesday, Michael Maxon, 54, was charged with abandoning/endangering a child. Investigators accused him of leaving Alex alone with Valeria, knowing she was unstable.

At Thursday's trial, psychologists testified that they believe that Michael Maxon exacerbated his wife's mental condition. Police found a tape in the house in which Michael Maxon repeatedly chants negative statements. He told police he played it for his wife as 'therapy' when she was extremely depressed.

'It's all so deliciously tragic,' Maxon says over and over in a singsong voice. 'It's all my fault. I really screwed up. I'm the mother; no one understands me. If I'm miserable, the whole world has to be miserable. Nobody understands. Our son is riding the short bus. It's all my fault.'


Valeria Maxon will remain in the state mental hospital for an indefinite period. She will stay until a treatment team determines, and a judge agrees, that she is stable enough to be released. Sometimes, the stays are relatively short.

Other cases

Since 2001, at least four other Texas mothers have killed their children and were found not guilty by reason of insanity.

In June 2001, Andrea Yates of suburban Houston drowned her five children, ages 6 months to 7 years, in a bathtub, saying she was saving them from the devil. During her 2002 trial, a jury found her guilty of capital murder and sentenced her to life in prison, but the conviction was overturned. Yates, who had a long history of mental illness, was retried and found not guilty by reason of insanity. She was committed to a state mental hospital.

Deanna Laney of Tyler was charged with capital murder in May 2003 for bludgeoning two of her sons to death with rocks and severely injuring a third. She said God told her to kill her sons. Laney was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was committed to a state mental hospital.

Dena Schlosser of Plano fatally injured her daughter by cutting off her arms with a 10-inch butcher knife in November 2004. Schlosser, who suffered from postpartum depression and exhibited hyper-religious behavior, believed she was sacrificing her baby to God. She was found not guilty by reason of insanity and sent to a state mental hospital.

Lisa Ann Diaz of Plano drowned her two daughters, ages 5 and 2, in 2003. She told doctors and psychologists that they had lupus and ringworm. She was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was released from a state mental hospital in 2006."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

She should be in an institution.