Original article no longer available
Posted on July 11, 2003
Paula Pinckard: had been “the all-American housewife,” attorney says.
COLFAX — In March 2000, Paula Pinckard shot her 11-year-old daughter Aubrey to death before shooting herself in their Rock Hill home.
On Thursday, Pinckard was released from Eastern Louisiana Mental Health System, formerly Feliciana Forensic Facility, a hospital for the criminally insane, according to Grant Parish District Attorney Jay Lemoine.
After a hearing in 35th Judicial District Court, Judge Alfred Mansour ruled that Pinckard can return home to Grant Parish on five years supervised probation. Pinckard, 38, may not take care of children under 15 years of age and may not be alone with children under 15, Mansour ruled.
Mansour also ordered Pinckard to attend Alexandria Mental Health Center for monthly treatment, or more frequently, depending on her doctor’s opinion.
Pinckard may not possess weapons and must submit to random drug testing.
Lemoine said his office opposed Pinckard’s release, but her doctors believe she is not a danger to herself or to others — the criteria used to decide if patients should be released from mental hospitals.
“The treatment team said she had had a psychotic episode” when she shot her daughter, Lemoine said, and they feel an extremely small chance exists that Pinckard will have another episode.
“I understand what” Mansour “based his decision on,” Lemoine said.
“However, given the short time since this incident occurred, I felt the best thing would be for her to be monitored in an in-patient setting before being released,” the DA added.
Pinckard will not be living with her oldest daughter, now a college student, he said, adding that Pinckard’s family and community have supported her since the shooting.
In the March 28, 2000, incident, Pinckard used a .38-caliber revolver to shoot and kill Aubrey, an honor student at South Grant Elementary School in Dry Prong. The shooting took place in their home in Rock Hill, located about 9 miles south of Colfax on U.S. Highway 71.
Pinckard also shot the family dog before shooting herself in the stomach in a suicide attempt. She was in critical condition after the shooting but recovered.
Pinckard was found innocent of murder by reason of insanity in November 2000. She was committed to Feliciana in February 2001.
Pinckard’s lawyer, George Higgins, said Pinckard has been getting passes from the hospital for at least a year, some lasting as long as two weeks.
Higgins said Pinckard’s doctors believe the Prozac she was taking before the shooting caused her behavior; it acted as a catalyst for a hidden bipolar condition.
“That’s something that makes this case extremely unique,” Higgins said. “Most defendants found not guilty by reason of insanity and sent to Feliciana have a history of violent behavior.
“Paula is the opposite. She was active at church, with children, the all-American housewife.”
Higgins said Pinckard’s psychiatrists testified that if she had not taken Prozac, her condition may never have manifested itself.
Julia Robb: 487-6378;
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In Her Own Words: Prozac Induced Psychosis Leads to Death of Child: Paula’s Story
(Permission granted to use real names)
I am thirty-six years old this December 9th. I had a complete hysterectomy at the age of twenty-six. My doctor put me on hormone replacement. I had problems sleeping. I would go through nights without any sleep, fighting insomnia. Through lack of sleep I was exhausted.
A friend of mine suggested for me to go to her physician. She felt he could help me. She made the appointment and drove me to the doctors office. After seeing the doctor, he prescribed a sleeping aid, which was the root of the problem- and Prozac. I found out my friend was on it too. She expressed to me it made her feel like a brand new person. No one took the time to explain the danger of this drug or monitored me on the drug.
At the time, I really was not sure of how I felt, there was a lot of changes. The only difference was that I was sleeping a little better than before. My emotions were numbed, nothing bothered me, even daily chores. I let them go. I did not care. Soon my insomnia came back even worse than before. In March 2000, being on Prozac three months, I started my way to hell. I did not know mentally what is going on or happening within. My whole mental recall is blurred. I started crying hysterically. It crossed my mind this was ridiculous-crying all the time, and spending the amount of money monthly for Prozac.
I threw the bottle of pills in the trash. Each day that went by I steadily was heading for bottom. Everything that crossed my mind had to do with religion. The people that I saw at this time all knew that something was wrong with me. This went on for about nine to ten days. Each day I was getting worse. Toward the eighth day my emotion/thoughts flipped speedily from one thought to another.
Aubrey, my eleven year old daughter, and I went to MacDonalds for lunch. I became extremely paranoid of everyone in the building. I thought someone was going to come in and start shooting. I was so frightened- all I could think of was protecting Aubrey. I thought my yard was the Garden of Eden. Everything was meant to be free. So I let our big dog loose and freed our two ducks that were in a cage. Our big dog caught one of the ducks in his mouth. Immediately it crossed my mind that he was a monster and he was going to kill the ducks. I became scared of him. In the process of trying to catch him to get the duck out of his mouth, he finally let the duck go. He then jumped on Aubrey and knocked her down. She was screaming. He was on top of her and she could not get up. That’s when I hysterically went to pieces. I had to save her. I went to get the gun that was in the closet on the top shelf. I shot the dog to save Aubrey.
The next thing I remember was that I was in my bathroom to put the gun up and all of a sudden my thinking pattern shifts again. Crying, I put the gun to my head to pull the trigger when Aubrey walked into the bathroom to witnesses what is fixing to happen. She screams “No Momma”, and jumped on me and grabbed my hand with the gun. The gun went off. The bullet that was meant for me- hit her.
The next thing I remember is waking up in ICU being told I had been shot. I lost one lung and part of my liver. I lost Aubrey. I went through hell for days. No one had enough time to reach a caring hand out to save me. My daughter was the bravest of all. She reached out her hand and saved my life.
What once was a normal family is now grieving. A torn apart family that has lost so much. I had to undergo hypnosis to remember all of this, for my memory had gone blank. I was charged with murder and also the death penalty.
Today, I have been on a long journey. It has been almost two years since my world came crashing down. Everyday I see my scars on my body to remind me of this horrible tragedy that I lived through and Aubrey did not. When I was in the hospital I had guards 24 hours a day. After I was discharged, I was sent to the psychiatric ward, and I remained there for a couple of weeks, then was sent to the parish jail for three months. I was sent to a mental hospital for therapy/hypnosis to regain my memory. I stayed there six months.
The judge found me Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity to the Charge of First Degree Murder and committed me to the custody of the State Department of Health and Hospital, Forensic Division. Due to a long waiting list for this particular hospital, I was sent to jail for nine months. I have made it to the hospital, but I don’t see a psychiatrist once a month. These people in here are all on drugs.
I have made it this far and have not taken even hormones. Yes, they have tried to put me on them, But I refuse to take them. They tell me I am hopeless.
This is in Paula’s own writing,
Thanks and please share this with others show them how dangerous these drugs can be.
Sandra Cindrich (Paula Pinckard’s Mother)