HASTINGS, Minn. – A Minnesota mother charged with murder told police she and her two youngest children planned to commit suicide together and invoked Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch to them as an image of heaven, prosecutors said Friday.
Patricia Ann Becht, 42, was charged Friday with first-degree premeditated murder for the death of her son, Michael, 10, and with the attempted first-degree murder of her daughter, Erica, 11. The complaint said Becht gave police a statement in her hospital room Tuesday in which she admitted planning with the two children to commit suicide using pills.
The single mother told police she gave each child 10 tablets of Seroquel — which is commonly used to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia — and took 25 to try to kill herself, according to the criminal complaint filed in Dakota County District Court.
"She said that during the recent coverage of the death of Michael Jackson the children asked her about his home, Neverland. The defendant said she told the children that Neverland was a place for kids to go, and it was similar to heaven. The defendant went on to say that she discussed going to Neverland with her children as part of their suicide plan," the complaint said.
Becht's public defender, David Warg, said she was sent Friday to the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter for the evaluation, and they'll decide how to proceed with her defense. He said he had no knowledge about what happened beyond the complaint.
"I really have no comment other than I share everybody's feeling about this situation and what a terrible tragedy it was," Warg said. "My concern now is for the well-being of my client."
In a suicide note to her 16-year-old daughter who was out of town, Becht wrote that she knew the teenager wouldn't understand and that she couldn't ask her to come with, the complaint said. She also wrote that she couldn't leave Michael and Erica behind, and that they all were finally at peace, it said.
Officers were sent to the Becht home on Monday evening after Becht's niece got a call from the 16-year-old asking her to check on the family, the complaint said. The niece said she had to enter the house through an open window. She found Michael not breathing, Erica semiconscious, and Patricia Becht vomiting in the bathroom. When the niece found the suicide note, she called 911.
Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said Friday the daughter's condition was improving and her prognosis was good.
Police found "numerous" pill bottles in the house containing several psychiatric drugs. The complaint didn't say if Becht gave anything to the children except Seroquel. The manufacturer's literature says overdose deaths from Seroquel are very rare.
Judge Robert Carolan ordered a psychiatric evaluation for Becht and set bail at $1 million without conditions, or $750,000 with conditions. The evaluation is expected within the next 60 days.
"This is a deeply disturbing crime that has shocked our community," Backstrom said in a statement. He said a grand jury would review the case. Becht faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.