The Lawyer and relatives of a young Jehovah’s Witness woman investigated for stabbing her child request a medical evaluation to determine if she suffers from a mental disorder.
The application is done. The lawyer Shirley Apolo requested that her client do a medical and psychiatric examination. That evaluation will reveal if she has a mental disorder and what kind. The result is important. Whether or not she gets out of prison depends on that, and the future of the judicial process that follows.
Her family cannot find an explanation to understand how the 25-year-old girl ended up in the women’s detention center in Guayaquil. They know that she had stabbed her baby on June 30, but she never reacted violently before. That is why this whole situation surprises them.
The emotional shock they feel is mixed with outrage. They do not agree that she is in the prison center. She has hearing and speech disabilities, but her relatives also say that she suffers from a mental disorder that the experts seek to confirm. Due to these conditions, they think that the preventive detention that was ordered, while the case is being investigated, is not the appropriate measure.
“People exert pressure, thinking that it is an act of evil, of irresponsibility,” says her brother.
He does not want to refer to how the attack on the little boy may have happened, because he does not want to interfere with the investigations. But he does clarify that his sister is not aggressive. He does not know what may have happened to her at that moment.
“The nurses said that despite her disability, she was one of the first to get up to breastfeed her son. She was worried, with a cesarean section and everything, to breastfeed him,” she says.
He describes her as a good person, who was even in the care of a niece, without anything strange happening. “She and her son’s father met at the Jehovah’s Witnesses church. He also belongs to that congregation. They fell in love there.”
Fernando Brito, a national spokesman for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, via email indicated that they are saddened by the child’s death. They do not have data on the case and assume that the authorities will continue with the investigation.
“Jehovah’s Witnesses do not shield anyone guilty of a serious crime or the consequences of their actions. Criminal conduct like this is condemned by the Bible,” he stated.
When asked in the same way about the young woman’s behaviour, he replied that “the baby’s mother is known in the congregation for being an emotionally stable person, who gets along with everyone and was not known to have any mental illness or that kind of disorder.”
According to police information, the woman communicated by sign language to the spouse that she saw the devil inside the child and that is why she acted in the way she did. The congregation was not aware of that detail. Their biblical belief rejects spiritualistic practices.
Apollo took the case on Wednesday. She later visited the woman and she was worried. “She is not receiving priority care, she is with the other inmates (…). Inside the prison there are no staff who know sign language,” she emphasizes.
Like the family, she is concerned that due to the difficulty of communication, the girl’s needs are not exactly known. In addition, the girl, being in the postpartum period, produces breast milk, with the risk of mastitis (inflammation of the breast tissue, common in the lactation stage, which sometimes generates an infection).
The case file contains an official letter issued by the judge to the prison director, ordering that the defendant receive “priority attention, due to the severe hearing disability demonstrated at the hearing, and the presumption of a possible mental disability.”
AND IF THEY CHECK THE DISORDER?
For Apolo it is amazing that in the hearing, as she was able to learn, a police officer who knows sign language supported the interpretation, instead of an expert.
Likewise, she questions the Prosecutor’s Office that filed charges for murder and requested preventive detention, without considering that the lawyers who represented her in the proceeding alleged that, in addition to her disabilities, she has a mental disorder and had not undergone a medical evaluation before the hearing. That is why the defence requested said evaluation.
The excerpt from the hearing details that a copy of a Conadis credential (National Council for Equality of Disabilities) indicating a disability of 60% was presented. Djalma Blum, a lawyer and former judge of Criminal Guarantees, indicates that it is not clear if the card includes only hearing and speech disabilities or mental disabilities as well.
He explains that if the expert proves a disorder in the girl, she is not criminally responsible for the crime, so the process would be filed, provided that her condition “nullifies her ability to understand the act she is committing” (see infographic).
What pathologies can eliminate understanding? Dr. Julieta Sagnay, a specialist in psychiatry, mentions that psychotic episodes or schizophrenia lead to such a consequence. “Many of these people have mental retardation, they are born with a cognitive problem and may have psychotic symptoms. More so if it is verified that they have an IQ of less than 70%”.
To get to that point, there are previous behavioural changes, such as isolation, talking alone, hearing voices or having the idea that one is being persecuted. These are signs that family members must identify so that later, with a professional, begin treatment, she explains.
The result of the expert opinion may or may not turn the case around. Until that happens, the communication and health complexities for women inside the prison will continue. How long will that wait last?
The young mother, who suffers from speech, hearing and intellectual disabilities, revealed that she may have seen the “devil” inside her son.
It was 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 30, and a few meters from the Perimeter road, in the Santiago de Guayaquil cooperative, in the south of Guayaquil, no one had heard of the chilling scene that an elderly woman had just discovered inside her house.
The residents only remembered seeing her leave with a baby wrapped in sheets, while desperately raising a hand for a taxi driver to stop and take her to a hospital. Some neighbours had noticed that the child was bleeding, but they never suspected that something serious had just happened, according to what they said the morning of the next day, Friday, July 1, 2022.
At the General Hospital of Guasmo, the first medical center to which the little boy was taken, the doctors confirmed that he had serious injuries to the chest and abdomen, an area in which he also had exposed organs, according to Colonel Fausto Miño Valencia, chief of the Esteros police district.
The officer explained that the boy was stabbed by his mother (see infographic), a 25-year-old girl who has speech and hearing disabilities, but also has mental disorders, which would have worsened with her pregnancy.
The police chief explained that, on Thursday night, it was the mother’s grandmother who found the wounded little boy, along with his mother, and decided to take him to a health center on his own to save him. However, the injuries were so serious that he did not resist and he died a few hours later.
Why did she do it?
Through sign language, with the interpretation of the woman’s spouse, the investigators learned that she may have seen that “the devil was inside the child” and that is why she would have looked for a video, in which she supposedly saw how to get him out. After that she stabbed her baby.
The mother was apprehended and handed over to the judicial authorities to determine her legal status.
Video published by Jehovah’s Witnesses on June 27th, 2022, 3 days before the murder:
In the above video, leader of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mark Stephen Lett, refers to babies as “enemies of God” because they are not born as “friends of God”. This comment is dangerous for numerous reasons, least of which is that it is logically fallacious: One is not automatically an enemy of another simply because they are not a friend. We are only enemies if we commit an act that is contrary to the interest of another OR we view someone as an enemy because we have learned to be prejudiced towards other persons or groups.
Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that their teachings are Bible-based. A comment like this by a religious leader, which is not said flippantly because it is based on a pre-arranged speech, is irresponsible. It also describes God as a hater of humanity unless they are a friend of Him. A comment like this could lead an adherent with mental disabilities to view their helpless baby as an “enemy of God” and may lead them to commit the worst act possible towards it.
Mark Stephen Lett should recall the comment and clarify what he means by referring to a helpless baby as an “enemy of God”. In a publication geared towards children, Learn from the Great Teacher, they also describe Satan the Devil as an “enemy of God” in Chapter 9. See here in English, and here in Spanish. If this woman had taken Lett’s comment literally, it is not unreasonable to understand why a woman with mental disabilities believed she had seen the Devil in her baby son.