Crime & Courts

Woman insane when she hurt her son, psychologist says

WOODSTOCK – Based on a psychologist's evaluation, a Harvard woman accused of putting a knife down her infant son's throat likely will be found not guilty by reason of insanity.

A stipulated bench trial is set for March 21 for Claudia Mejia, 37, during which both her defense attorney and prosecutors will agree on most of the facts in the case.

Mejia is charged with one count each of attempted murder and aggravated battery of a child. Her son, Isaac, has recovered.

Mejia was declared mentally unfit to stand trial soon after her arrest in December 2011. She  received treatment at Elgin Mental Health Center, where physicians said she was profoundly mentally ill – mute, immobile and in a catatonic state.

She was diagnosed with severe postpartum depression and, while treatment options were being considered, suffered one of at least two seizures.

In September, Mejia was found to be competent to stand trial and returned to the McHenry County Jail. Psychologist Robert Meyer evaluated her and determined that she was insane at the time of the offense, according to her attorney, Wes Pribla.

Insanity as a defense concerns whether the defendant was able to consider the criminality of his or her actions at the time of the offense. Mental fitness to stand trial, however, is about whether a defendant is able to understand the legal proceedings and assist in the defense.

If she is found not guilty by reason of insanity, Mejia will be transferred to the custody of the Illinois Department of Human Services, where she will receive treatment for up to 30 years, Pribla said.

How long she stays there depends on how long it takes her to mentally recuperate, Pribla said.

"I think this is the best result for all parties involved, including the family," he said.

However, Pribla said he was unsure whether Mejia, who is not a legal immigrant, will be deported upon her release.

Mejia's husband, Osvaldo Mejia, has been supportive of his wife and previously said she never have would harmed her child if she had been in the right state of mind. He visits her regularly.

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