Depressed mother charged with killing her daughter, 9 — (Houston Chronicle)

SSRI Ed note: Woman given antidepressant for grief strangles 9-yr-old daughter, mental illness is blamed.

Original article no longer available

Houston Chronicle

Sept. 24, 2003, 12:03AM


The mother of a 9-year-old girl was charged with murder Tuesday after the child was apparently strangled while the two were alone in their southeast Houston apartment, police said.
Police said Deandra Evans was injured late Monday while she was home with her mother, Demetria Evans, 34. The child was taken to Texas Children’s Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
The Harris County medical examiner’s office had not determined the cause of death Tuesday night.
Demetria Evans was taken to Ben Taub Hospital’s psychiatric center Monday night, but was transferred to the Harris County Jail’s psychiatric unit late Tuesday, police said.
Police said Demetria Evans’ husband, Warren Evans, came home from the store and found the girl lying unconscious near her mother.
In an interview Tuesday morning outside the couple’s apartment in the 7900 block of Bellfort, Warren Evans said his wife suffers from depression and takes medication. But he said he never thought she would kill their daughter.
“When she’s in her right stage, you couldn’t tell me she would do something like this. When she’s in her dark mood … ” he said, unable to finish speaking.
Warren said that when he returned from the store, he called his wife’s name twice but she did not answer. He walked into a back room and saw her sitting in the dark. When he switched on the light, he saw his daughter lying near her.
“I asked her what she did,” he said. “She said she killed her.”
Warren Evans said he took his wife to the Ben Taub psychiatric unit about three days before the child’s death because the woman suffered some sort of mental distress. Doctors gave her medication, but she was not admitted, he said.
Ben Taub officials said they cannot comment on patients because of confidentiality concerns. However, Bryan McLeod, a hospital spokesman, said Demetria Evans had not been a patient at the hospital since 1995 and the treatment then was not for psychiatric care.
Warren Evans said Deandra was born in 1994, and the couple married in 1999.
He said his wife appeared unaffected by mental illness until her mother died in 1996. She seemed to be unable to recover from the loss and would sit silently for hours. She sought help at psychiatric hospitals and took medication, but often didn’t take it as prescribed, he said.
Gradually, he said, her bouts of depression became worse and she turned violent. He said she stabbed him in the arm about two years ago and shot him in the side in December.
He said they had not argued before the violent outbursts. Before the shooting, she had been depressed for four or five days, he said.
“As the time passed you could see the violence begin,” he said.
Heather Goodman, a psychiatrist at the Baylor College of Medicine, said people with severe depression usually don’t become violent toward others unless they are psychotic from other conditions, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
Mental illness has been connected to recent cases in which mothers were accused of harming their children.
Martha Burks, who has been treated for a mental condition, was recently charged with intent to commit serious bodily injury after allegedly stabbing her daughter in the back at the family’s home in Texas City on Sept. 6.
Andrea Pia Yates, who suffered from depression, was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison for killing her children. On June 20, 2002, she confessed to drowning her five children, ages 6 months to 7 years, in the family’s bathtub.
On Tuesday, friends of Deandra said she was a happy child who loved playing with Barbie dolls and spending time with her parakeet.
Chronicle reporter Rosanna Ruiz contributed to this story

Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle