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Mother Charged After Baby's Arms Severed

Associated Press, By LISA FALKENBERG, Nov 23, 2004

PLANO, Texas (AP) -- With a calm, dispassionate voice and a hymn playing in the background, Dena Schlosser confessed to the unthinkable, telling a 911 operator she'd cut off the arms of her baby girl.

The woman was sitting in her living room covered with blood when police arrived Monday. Her nearly 11-month-old daughter lay fatally injured in a crib in a bedroom of the family's apartment in Plano. The child died shortly afterward at a hospital.

Police have charged the 35-year-old mother with capital murder, but declined to reveal where she is being held.

Schlosser, who had a history of postpartum depression, had been investigated on child neglect allegations earlier this year, but Texas Child Protective Services had recently closed a seven-month investigation, concluding that Schlosser did not pose a risk to her children. Neighbors said she seemed to be a loving, attentive mother.

"There were never any indications of violence with this family," agency spokeswoman Marissa Gonzales said, describing the children as healthy and happy.

But, on Monday, authorities discovered a grisly scene after the child's father called a day-care center and asked staffers to check on his wife and daughter.

Day-care workers called 911 after talking to the mother; an operator then called Schlosser.

Asked if there was an emergency, Schlosser calmly responded "Yes," according to 911 tapes released by police.

Duke says when police arrived at the family's apartment, they found Dena Schlosser along with her nearly eleven-month-old baby with her arms severed.

"Exactly what happened?" the operator asked.

"I cut her arms off," Schlosser replied, as the hymn "He Touched Me" played in the background.

"You cut her arms off?" he repeated.

"Uh huh," she answered.

It was not immediately clear what instrument was used to sever the baby's arms or why the child's father called the day-care center. The name of the baby was not released.

Authorities said the two older daughters in the family, ages 6 and 9, were at school when police arrived, and that their father was at work.

No one answered the door Monday night at the family's apartment in suburban Dallas. Children's bicycles rested near the entrance along with angel garden statues.

Neighbors said Schlosser took her children swimming in the summer, had picnics in the courtyard and walked her baby around the complex the same time each afternoon.

Dena Livingston, 43, said she saw Schlosser making her rounds with the stroller on Sunday. Two days earlier, she saw Schlosser waiting with the baby outside the school her two other daughters attend.

"She didn't give off like she was in a distant world or didn't care about the baby," Livingston said.

Livingston's husband, Brad, added:"To see herwith the gils, you woud just thin she was a reat mother"

Child-protective officials were interviewing Schlossr's daughters and would talk to the father before deciding whether to remove the girls from the home.

In January, the agency was called to the home after Schlosser was seen running down the street, with one of her daughters bicycling after her, authorities said. When officials arrived, the child told them her mother had left her 6-day-old sister alone in the apartment.

Schlosser appeared at the time to be suffering from postpartum depression and having a psychotic episode, Gonzales said.

Schlosser was hospitalized, and later agreed to seek counseling and saw a psychiatrist, Gonzales said.

"At the time we closed the case, we had been assured that Mom was stabilized and that she was not a risk to herself or her children," Geoff Wool, spokesman for the Family and Protective Services Department, said.

A capital murder charge in Texas carries only two possible sentences: life in prison or the death penalty. Prosecutors did not say whether they plan to seek the death penalty.

The Schlosser case is the latest infamous case in recent years of Texas mothers accused of killing their children.

Andrea Yates of Houston drowned her five children, ages 6 months to 7 years, in the bathtub in 2001. She was convicted of capital murder in the deaths of three of the children and is serving a life sentence. The defense had said she suffered from schizophrenia and postpartum depression.

This year, Deanna Laney, 39, was acquitted of capital murder by reason of insanity after killing her sons, ages 8 and 6. A third son was injured. Psychiatrists said Laney, of New Chapel Hill, suffered from psychotic delusions that God told her to kill her children. She was committed to a mental hospital.

2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.