Dena Schlosser Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity

A Texas judge has ruled that religion is a form of insanity.

A mother charged with murder for cutting off her baby daughter’s arms in what her lawyers portrayed as a religious frenzy was found not guilty by reason of insanity Friday by a judge. Dena Schlosser, 38, will be sent to a state mental hospital and held until she is no longer deemed a threat to herself or others.


Police arrested Schlosser in 2004 after she told a 911 operator she had severed her baby’s arms. Officers found the 10-month-old baby, Margaret, near death in her crib and Schlosser covered in blood, holding a knife and listening to a hymn.

In issuing the verdict, Judge Chris Oldner said Schlosser had met the legal standard for insanity, but did not elaborate. Both the defense and the prosecution had agreed to let the judge decide the case after Schlosser’s previous trial ended in a deadlocked jury in February.


The case hinged on whether Schlosser was unable to grasp the wrongfulness of the crime — the Texas standard for insanity. The judge relied on evidence he had heard during the first trial. Among other things, psychiatrists said Schlosser suffered severe mood swings and religious hallucinations. One doctor said Schlosser told him she wanted to cut off her baby’s arms and her own limbs and head and give them to God. But prosecutor Curtis Howard said the fact Schlosser told her husband that she had “killed the baby” proved she knew what she was doing. “This is a case that could have gone both ways; we knew that,” Howard said after the verdict.

So, she was fully aware of what she was doing, had the presence of mind to call 911, and yet “unable to grasp the wrongfulness of the crime”? How does that work, exactly?

One thing working in her factor was a new development:

Last week it was disclosed that Schlosser had a brain tumor that defense attorneys said could have caused hallucinations. […] Schlosser’s brain tumor did not become an issue until last week. A witness in her first trial alluded to a possible brain lesion, but miscommunication between doctors delayed confirmation by a neurologist until weeks after the mistrial.

Oops! And did the doctors say it could have caused hallucinations or merely her attorneys?

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Religion, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. floyd says:

    it sounds like hallucination was the “form of insanity” “religious” was only an adjective. it could have read “philosophical hallucinations”. that would not make “philosophy” a “form of insanity” . makes for a great headline though!where’s that clarity we’re so proud of?

  2. Randall says:

    Had this been a man and not a woman he would have been called an evil,filthy animal,and thrown into death row without a second thought to his sanity.

  3. This is easily the most disturbing case I’ve heard of.

    For once in a very long time, how about a punishment truly fitting the crime: a public flogging and crucifixion of this lunatic!

    As if you can’t tell, I don’t buy the insanity defense one damn bit. In fact, if you’ve read the bible — any version — you’ll see that this is pretty much par for the course when it comes to atrocities committed on babies.