Skip to comments.Texas woman on trial for allegedly killing two young sons with rocks
Posted on 03/30/2004 3:42:42 PM PST by South40
TYLER, Texas A mother who bashed her sons' heads with heavy rocks, killing two of the boys, was so delusional she thought the Lord told her to do it, her attorney said yesterday in opening statements at her murder trial.
"Does she follow what she believes to be God's will or does she turn her back on her God?" defense attorney F.R. "Buck" Files Jr. asked the jury of eight men and four women.
Deanna Laney, a 39-year-old stay-at-home mother, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of murdering 8-year-old Joshua and 6-year-old Luke and causing serious injury to Aaron, then 14 months. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty.
The deeply religious East Texas woman who home-schooled her children in the tiny town of New Chapel Hill, 100 miles southeast of Dallas, wept uncontrollably as prosecutors showed showed gruesome photographs of her slain children.
Her husband, who has supported her, sat a few rows behind with friends and family.
Prosecutors contend Laney knew right from wrong when she killed her children last Mother's Day weekend despite opinions from two psychiatric experts for the defense, two for the prosecution and one for the judge all of whom said Laney was legally insane.
"The issue of sanity is tried in the court, not the hospitals," District Attorney Matt Bingham told the jury.
Prosecutors played a tape of a 911 call in which Laney, in her high, dainty voice, calmly told a dispatcher after midnight on May 10: "I just killed my boys." She also described the color of her house and directed authorities to her home.
"I just did what I had to do," she told the dispatcher.
Later in the tape, she appeared to doubt whether she should have beaten the baby, saying, "I don't think I did right by Aaron." She later said, "I don't think I was supposed to kill him."
Bingham said Laney attacked the baby first, hammering his head with a 4½-pound rock she had hidden under his crib. When he began crying, Laney's husband, Keith, woke up and found his wife standing over the baby.
"Everything's OK," she told him.
He assumed his wife was changing a diaper and went back to bed. Laney then struck the baby again, and after hearing a gurgling from the blood in Aaron's throat, she covered him with a pillow and left the room, Bingham said.
|LANEY'S HUSBAND TESTIFIES; JURORS SEE VIDEO
Homemade pictures and photographs of three smiling boys were displayed on the refrigerator door. Two of the boys lay dead in the front yard; the other lay in his crib - his life forever changed.
An hourlong video of the crime scene where Deanna LaJune Laney, 39, killed two of her sons and seriously injured a third was shown to jurors Tuesday in her capital murder trial.
The family's nice three-bedroom house sits on five acres of land, just outside of New Chapel Hill.
Fourteen-month-old Aaron Laney, now 2, was first. Mrs. Laney took him from his crib and bashed him on the head with a 4-pound rock she had stashed earlier.
Keith Laney was awakened from his son Aaron's screams after the boy was hit on the head. He entered the dark bedroom and saw his wife leaning over him and assumed she was changing his diaper. After she said, "Everything's OK," he returned to bed, he testified.
Then one-by-one, she led Luke, 6, and Joshua, 8, from their beds into a rock garden in the front yard, in-structed them to lie down and struck their heads with heavy rocks. She killed the boys in the same spot, dragging Luke into a darkened part of the yard about 60 feet away before stoning Joshua. Aaron's blood was found on Luke's ankles, Smith County sheriff's office crime scene Investigator Noel Martin testified, and Joshua had Luke's blood on his back.
Smudges of Aaron's and Luke's blood also were found in Luke and Joshua's bedroom, he testified.
The two older boys died in the late hours of May 9 or the early hours of May 10, 2003, just a day before Mother's Day. Aaron spent weeks in a hospital and is still recovering. He suffers visual impairment and will never be self-sufficient, Acting Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham said.
Later that night, Mrs. Laney called 911 and in a tranquil voice told a dispatcher she had killed her boys - something she just had to do because God told her to.
The video showed what Martin saw as he first approached the Laney's house and yard. The neat and tidy house contrasted Aaron's room, where toys scattered across the floor were splattered with his blood.
Dr. Sheila Spotswood, a forensic pathologist at the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas, performed the autopsy on Luke and supervised Joshua's. The state showed gruesome photographs of the examinations as the defendant hung her head and kept her eyes lowered. Family members looked away while the boys' father, Keith Laney, lowered his head and wiped his eyes at times.
Dr. Spotswood said Joshua's body had suffered at least eight blows from the 16-pound rock found atop his body. There was so much destruction on the left side of his face that part of his brain was pulpified and small bone fragments shooting out of his skin could have been the cause of smaller cuts on his face, she added.
Luke had fractures to the left and right side of his skull, as well as a pattern of fractures to the base of his skull, Dr. Spotswood said. He also suffered "deep, crushing, gaping lacerations" and open skull fractures.
She said the boys' wounds required tremendous force, would have been very painful and were intentionally inflicted.
Joshua began to struggle with his mother after he suffered the first blow to his head. She placed her knees on his arms and resumed beating him until he no longer put up a fight, Bingham said.
Bloody foam that escaped Luke's nose led Dr. Spotswood to believe he was breathing after he had suffered the blows to his head and neck, although she could not speculate for how long.
Lead defense counsel F.R. "Buck" Files Jr. and attorneys Tonda Curry and LaJuanda Lacy are defending Mrs. Laney, who pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Doctors hired by the state and defense who individually evaluated Mrs. Laney are expected to testify she was insane at the time of the killings.
If found not guilty by reason of insanity, she would be evaluated for 30 days at a state mental facility. Doctors would recommend what type of treatment, if any, they thought she needed.
Mrs. Laney's fate would ultimately be in the hands of 114th District Judge Cynthia Kent, who would decide if Mrs. Laney received out patient or inpatient care and for how long. She could be placed in a mental facility for life.
The state's team, made up of Bingham, First Assistant DA Brett Harrison and Chief Felony Prosecutor April Sikes, is not seeking the death penalty in the case.
The trial is scheduled to continue Wednesday morning.
Casey Knaupp covers state and federal courts. She can be reached at 903.596.6289. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
AFTER BEING ATTACKED BY MOTHER IN CRIB
|Fourteen-month-old Aaron Laney was clinging to life when sheriff's deputies found him bleeding from head wounds in his crib after his mother called 911 dispatchers saying she killed his two older brothers by bashing their heads with rocks.
Aaron, now 2 years old, will never be the same, his doctor testified Monday.
"He will have on-going problems with language, motor development and vision," said David Sacco, a neurosurgeon with Children's Medical Center in Dallas. "He will never be a normal child. He will never be able to learn like a normal child."
Deanna Laney, who is accused of killing her two oldest sons and seriously injuring Aaron, sobbed as the doctor described the toddler's condition when he arrived in Dallas after the May 10 attack.
Sacco said the child was entubated and heavily sedated when first brought into the emergency room. Doctors quickly moved him to the intensive care unit to try to stabilize his condition. Tests indicated multiple fractures along the left side of his skull and signs of swelling in his brain. Sacco said doctors had to drill a hole in his skull to monitor and relieve the building pressure. He was breathing only with the help of a ventilator, the doctor said.
Photos of Aaron in the ICU graphically showed his injuries and the steps doctors were taking to keep him alive. The baby's father, Keith Laney, held his head in his hands as the photos were shown to the jury.
Sacco said the child's brain continued to swell and doctors had to take more extreme measures to save his life.
"Without treating his intercranial pressure or other critical care that was provided... he would not have survived his injuries," Sacco testified.
The baby has also required a feeding tube and "extensive rehabilitation," Sacco said. As a result of the attack, the doctor testified that Aaron would never be able to live independently.
Other evidence further illustrated the violent nature of the attacks against the Laney children. Prosecutors entered three chunks of porous sandstone stained with blood into evidence Monday afternoon. Smith County Sheriff's office Investigator Noel Martin testified blood patterns and crime scene analysis indicated each rock was used for more than one blow on each child.
After analysis of the evidence, Martin testified Aaron was the first one attacked. The toddler's blood covered a 4-pound rock investigators found on the bedroom floor of his brothers.
The most blood was found outside where the bodies of his brothers Joshua Keith Laney, 8, and Luke Allen Laney, 6, were found.
Martin showed a diagram of the outside crime scene that illustrated the location of the bodies. Luke's small body was dragged several feet away from where investigators say the attack took place into a darkened corner of the yard. Jurors shifted in their seats when Bingham showed a picture of Luke with his bloody Scooby-Doo shirt pulled up around his armpits. The 10-pound rock used to kill him was resting on his chest.
Joshua, who police think was the last victim, lay in the place where his mother cracked his skull with a 16-pound flat landscaping rock. Graphic photos showed the child was nearly unrecognizable after the attack that apparently threw blood all over the yard.
"I measured spatter in every direction for a distance of eight feet," Martin said.
Acting District Attorney Matt Bingham held the rock used to kill Joshua above his head and slammed it toward the floor to illustrate how blood could have cast off from the rock onto the crime scene.
Other photographs showed a stunned-looking Mrs. Laney handcuffed wearing a nightgown covered in blood, a blood spattered toy tractor in the baby's room and the bloodstained pajamas the victims were wearing at the time of the attacks.
Defense Attorney F.R. "Buck" Files noted in cross-examination of Martin an inventory of the Laney household listed 15 Bibles as well as other religious writings.
Robert Greg Hilbig, criminalist for the Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Lab in Garland, testified DNA consistent with all three victims was found on Mrs. Laney and each of the rocks at the crime scene.
Smith County Sheriffs Detective Joe Rasco, who was then with the major crimes division, testified his job was to investigate the crime and try to determine not just how it happened, but why. Rasco said he interviewed family and friends to examine if there were prior marital or money problems, and to find out if there were previous incidents of child abuse. Between May and November, he conducted 28 documented interviews but could find no reason for the crime, he said.
"Everyone I talked to described this family as happy. She was a member of a church and appeared to be quite religious," he testified. "No one indicated any odd behavior from Mrs. Laney prior to May 10."
Files. asked Rasco if he could find a "logical" reason for the crimes. The detective responded that he could not.
More prosecution experts are expected to testify when the trial resumes at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Laura Jett Krantz covers Tyler city government, planning and zoning and the Parks Board. She can be reached at 903.596.6266. e-mail: email@example.com
On a side note: my family lived in Tyler, Texas in 1958 when I was just a runt. Thankfully...Tyler housewives/mothers were more sane back then.
Did I say she needs to be executed? Please show me where.
I don't buy this. SOMEBODY...family, parents, even if from a LONG time ago...knows she isn't all there. I just don't see how people can snap like this. It has happened so many other times before where women have killed their kids...perhaps I just don't want to believe it...but I think they had to have a bolt loose that was noticeable by at least family at some time during the past.
Anyway, rocks should now be outlawed.
OH...I forgot...these were children, and murdering children is not a crime according to NOW and other leftist fascists who advocate abortion. Release her now...nothing to see here folks. Move along. Happens every 20 seconds.
Perhaps I'm not that pious, but if God told me to do something like this, I'm afraid I'd tell God where to go.
At the minimum I would seek a second opinion. So would she, had her doctor told her her or her kid needed an operation.