CLEVELAND – A mother charged with aggravated murder in the bathtub drownings of her two daughters was found not guilty by reason of insanity Friday.
A three-judge panel in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court determined that 23-year-old Amber Hill suffered from a severe mental disorder when she drowned her daughters on Oct. 1, 2007.
"The court concludes she did not know the wrongfulness of her horrific acts," said Judge John Sutula.
Hill could have faced the death penalty if convicted of killing 4-year-old Janelle Cintron and 2-year-old Cecess Hill.
She remained jailed, where she has been held since the deaths, pending a civil commitment hearing on whether she should be hospitalized by court order. A hearing date was not immediately set.
Sutula said evidence from both the court's forensic psychiatrist and a clinical psychologist obtained by the defense concluded that Hill had suffered from "a major depressive disorder with psychotic features."
Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Mark Mahoney said the state believed Hill should be hospitalized.
"We will argue she is a danger to herself and others and that she be committed to a psychiatric institution," he said.
Defense lawyers did not dispute that Hill drowned the girls at the Cleveland apartment where they lived.
Defense attorney Fernando Mack had said Hill heard voices telling her to "do it, do it" on the day the children died.
Police said Hill called the girls' father, Jamie Cintron, at his job and told him that the children were "at peace." Cintron rushed home and pulled his daughters from the bathtub.
A forensic pathologist in the Cuyahoga County coroner's office had testified that marks on the older girl's neck indicated she may have struggled and was strangled.
Carolyn Hutchins, Hill's mother, said she thanked God for the verdict.
"Now my daughter can get some help," she said. During the trial, Hutchins had testified that she wanted to take her daughter to a hospital for mental health counseling before the children died.
Mack said Hill had since been medicated and was functioning well.
"She was a good mother," said the defense attorney Myron Watson. "She cared for those children. Those children were the center of her life."