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The Oregonian WEST ZONER
CRISTINE GONZALEZ of the Oregonian Staff
30 July 1997
Summary: Hillsboro police officers and others tell what they saw after Ada Louise Neilson was found with her dead child the night of Oct. 20
A woman accused of strangling her 22-month-old daughter told doctors she tried to kill herself after the child drowned in a bathtub, a witness testified on Tuesday. Ada Louise Neilson told a doctor at Tuality Community Hospital she had taken a lot of pills, according to a Hillsboro police officer testifying at a hearing in a Washington County court to determine whether Neilson will be released on bail or remain in jail pending her Sept. 17 trial.
She is charged with murder in the Oct. 20 death of her daughter, Caroline Victoria Sidney. Neilson, who has a history of mental illness, was taken to the hospital after police found her unconscious on the bathroom floor of her Hillsboro apartment next to the dead child. Caroline was with her mother for a short, unsupervised home visit. She had been in and out of foster care since August 1995, after her mother was arrested for bizarre behavior that endangered the child.
Neilson, dressed in an orange jail uniform, broke down in tears as the first witness testified. Judge Timothy P. Alexander granted a short break during which she pulled herself together. Robert Hermann, chief deputy district attorney, called two witnesses — both Hillsboro police officers who performed a welfare check at 627 S.E. 13th Ave. after Caroline wasn’t returned to her foster parents. Sgt. Vernon Schroder said he arrived at the apartment just before 8 p.m. After repeatedly ringing the doorbell and pounding on the door, he went in through a back door. The apartment smelled like mothballs and was very warm, he said. The heat was turned up to 75 degrees in the living room and 70 degrees in the child’s room. Schroder walked through the apartment until he found Neilson lying naked on top of the child in the bathroom. Neilson’s eyes were fluttering, he said, and she appeared to be semiconscious. Caroline was lying on her back, wrapped in a white towel. Her face was pale, her eyes fixed and she was cold to touch, he said. Schroder and another officer moved Neilson to the couch.
Officer Germaine Martinez stayed with her and took notes at the hospital as Neilson answered doctor’s questions about medication. “The doctor asked Neilson if she had taken a lot of pills and she said, `yes.’ He asked if she tried to kill herself and she said, `yes,’ ” Martinez testified. “He asked if she tried to kill herself because of the baby and she said, `I don’t want my baby.’ ” Later, Martinez said, Neilson began to cry and ask nurses what happened to her baby and if they had revived the child. Robert M. Elliott, Neilson’s public-appointed defense attorney, emphasized through witness testimony that his client was too incoherent to make any relevant statements. He also concentrated on repeated observations by witnesses that Caroline had fluid in her mouth, was partially wet and that the bathroom floor was wet — suggesting a drowning scene. On cross-examination, Schroder said Neilson was huddled over the child in a fetal position that could be interpreted as a “protective position.”
Martinez said Neilson made no statements while on the couch at her apartment. She responded to questions in the hospital by opening her eyes, initially, and she spoke in a low, slow voice. Two medics with the Hillsboro Fire Department testified that Neilson was “unresponsive” and “not totally unconscious” at her apartment. They noted the medications in Neilson’s bathroom — lithium, Zoloft and others she used to treat a bipolar disorder — and assumed she had overdosed. Detective Lawrence Harris of the Hillsboro Police Department said that several hours after police found Neilson, she was still in a sleeplike state at the hospital and difficult to wake up. The hearing continues today at 10 a.m. Photo – 1995