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Trafalgar mother charged in 2012 drowning death of 3-year-old

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After a year and a half of treatment at a state mental health facility, a Trafalgar woman accused of drowning her 3-year-old son is now fit to stand trial.

Amanda Smith, 36, completed treatment at Logansport State Hospital as of last month, and the judge has set a trial date for September.

Police said Smith drowned her 3-year-old son, Jacob, in the bathtub at her apartment in February 2012. She told police that she thought her family was turning her son against her and that she saw nothing good coming out of his life, according to court documents. Smith was charged with murder and attempted murder.

Psychologists determined Smith was not mentally competent to assist her attorneys with her defense. Johnson Superior Court 2 Judge Cynthia Emkes ruled Smith was not competent, and the trial was postponed while she received treatment.

Last month, the state hospital where Smith is being treated sent an updated report that she had finished her treatment and was ready for trial. Emkes has asked for two psychologists who had met Smith before to do new evaluations of whether she is competent and can assist with her own defense, Prosecutor Brad Cooper said.

Smith’s attorneys plan an insanity defense, meaning that a mental illness prevented Smith from understanding what she was doing was wrong, attorney Andy Roesener said. A person found not guilty of a crime due to reason of insanity does not serve prison time but could be committed to an inpatient mental health facility or be ordered to continue receiving treatment for an illness, he said.

Smith’s current mental state is a factor only in determining whether she can stand trial. Smith’s attorneys will defend her by presenting evidence to show she was mentally ill at the time of the drowning, while the prosecution will try to prove she knew and understood what she was doing and committed murder.

On Feb. 27, 2012, Smith told police she drowned her son in the bathtub to end any misery he would face in the future, according to police reports. She called police about 9 p.m. and swung an ax at officers before she surrendered and was arrested, police reports said. Paramedics found the child, who was unresponsive, in a bedroom and rushed him to Johnson Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Smith was convicted of child neglect after a March 2009 arrest in which police said she was smoking crack in a Greenwood apartment, with Jacob in the home. She was arrested again in April 2010 when she called police to report she and her boyfriend had been smoking crack in their Franklin home, according to court records.

She also had an ongoing case in a local court over visitation and custody of Jacob. Her mother had custody of the child, but about a month before his death the court allowed Smith to have weekly overnight visits at her Trafalgar apartment. It was during one of those visits that police said Smith killed the child.

Monitoring to continue

A key part of the criminal case will be reports and testimony from psychologists who evaluated Smith’s mental state after the incident. But one of the doctors who completed an evaluation, Dr. Richard Lawlor, has died since the case was filed, and his report no longer can be used because he can’t be questioned, Cooper said.

“It’s going to be very difficult to replace him. Someone is going to have to look back two years ago to her judge her sanity off of records,” Cooper said.

Information about any mental health conditions, copies of psychological reviews and reports from the state facility of her treatment are confidential. Other local court case files said she had been diagnosed as schizophrenic.

Psychologists also are being asked to check on her current mental health, and she will be monitored while being held at the Rockville Correctional Facility. If at any point she is determined to not be competent again, the trial would be postponed once more, Cooper said.

Although Smith wasn’t able to stand trial for about a year and a half, Cooper said, he says he can prove that Smith knew what she was doing when she killed her son. He wants to get the trial started as soon as possible before any more complications could arise.

“We’re going to go forward. It’s just a matter of the court determining she’s (still) competent in order to get this in front of the jury,” Cooper said.

Gag order still in effect

The delay in the case should have no effect on Smith’s defense, which relies on proving that she was mentally ill when the death occurred, Roesener said.

“Our evidence will center on that, and we thought she was so ill at the time she couldn’t appreciate the wrongfulness of what she was doing,” Roesener said.

A gag order, which prevents police from talking about or releasing information about the case, is still in effect, Cooper said. The judge granted the gag order on March 20, 2012, and it remains in effect until she removes it, he said.

The prosecutor requested the gag order early in the case because he said police were talking about details they shouldn’t have been releasing. He also didn’t want the case to get moved outside the county if the judge determines that potential jurors are prejudiced because of media coverage, he said.

Smith’s case is the only pending murder case in the county right now, Cooper said. She also faces a charge of battery resulting in bodily injury after police said she pushed a correctional officer at the Johnson County jail over a bench, knocking him unconscious and fracturing his arm, according to court documents.

Smith is being held at the state facility in Rockville due to her condition, according to court documents. She will be transported to Johnson County for any future court hearings, with the next hearing set for June.

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