WOODSTOCK – A Harvard mother who put a knife down her infant son’s throat has been found not guilty by reason of insanity and will receive inpatient mental health treatment for as long as 30 years.
Claudia Mejia, 38, was charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery of a child, both Class X felonies. A brief bench trial was held Thursday during which the prosecution and Mejia’s attorney, Wes Pribla, agreed on what witnesses would stay if called to the stand.
Evidence included the report of Dr. Robert Meyer, a clinical psychologist who found that Mejia was suffering from postpartum psychosis and was severely depressed.
Earlier reports from treating physicians stated that Mejia had been mute, immobile and in a catatonic state.
Judge Sharon Prather said prosecutors proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Mejia did commit the offenses but that she lacked the capacity to appreciate the criminality of her conduct.
Although she was found not guilty, Mejia will not be released. She will be transferred to the custody of the Illinois Department of Human Services and taken to a mental health facility, likely Elgin Mental Health Center. Physicians there have 30 days to provide a report on her treatment.
If she is not restored to mental health, she can remain institutionalized up to 30 years, which would have been the maximum sentence if she had been convicted.
It was unclear whether Mejia, who is not a U.S. citizen, would be deported if she is released.
On Dec. 16, 2011, Mejia’s husband, Osvaldo, had been the bathroom when he heard a thump and found his 9-month-old son, Isaac, covered in blood, Assistant State’s Attorney Sharyl Eisenstein said.
His wife was trying to get the remote to work on the TV and did not answer him when he asked what happened. Osvaldo Mejia called 911. When police arrived, they saw him holding his son, with blood coming from the baby’s nose and mouth. Osvaldo Mejia was hysterical; Claudia Mejia “just stood there” and had no response, Eisenstein said.
Claudia Mejia later made statements to police that she wanted her son to be with God, Eisenstein said.
Isaac Mejia was airlifted to Rockford Memorial Hospital. He eventually recovered and has been present with his father at some of his mother’s court dates.
Osvaldo Mejia has been supportive of his wife and previously said she never would have harmed her child if she had been in the right state of mind. He visits her regularly.
Detective Verle Leard of the Harvard Police Department, an investigating officer in the case, said outside of court that he had regular contact with Mejia’s husband since the incident.
“All I wanted is what’s best for the family,” Leard said. “They’ve been through enough.”
Kathy Cyscon and Linda Randow worked with Mejia, who was a housekeeper at Valley Hi, a Woodstock nursing home, for about eight years. They attended the brief trial, waving at Claudia Mejia as she was led back into the lockup.
Before the incident, both said they noticed that Mejia wasn’t acting like herself.
“She was talking weird about God and was working too hard, doing too much, and she wasn’t the Claudia that we knew,” Cyscon said.
The women wish they would have done something, but they never imagined that Mejia would hurt her own child.
“I kept asking her if she was OK, and she kept saying, ‘Yeah,’ but I knew something wasn’t right,” Randow said.