DALLAS – The woman who severed her baby's arms is described by her stepfather as a gentle soul who could have done such a thing only in the grips of mental illness.
Dena Schlosser (search), 35, of Plano faces a capital murder charge for the death of 10-month-old Margaret, whose body was found in her crib in a bedroom.
Schlosser called 911 and told an operator what she had done. She was in her apartment when police arrived, still holding a knife and listening to a church hymn.
"If you'd taken a hundred acquaintances at random and said to me, 'who would be the least likely to do anything involving violence?' I would have put Dena at the head of that list," her stepfather, Mick Macaulay, said Wednesday in a telephone interview from Canada, where he and Schlosser's mother live.
"This is a woman who takes birds' wings, if they're broken, and splints them and nurses them back to health," he said. "Just a very gentle person."
Macaulay, who is a mental health counselor, has no doubt that Schlosser's behavior was brought on by what he termed "postpartum psychosis." Generally speaking, according to a Web site sponsored by federal health agencies, a psychotic loses touch with reality, typically having delusions and/or hallucinations.
"It's the only explanation that makes sense," Macaulay said.
Defense attorney David Haynes is looking into whether Schlosser's mental state could have been affected by several surgeries she had in childhood to drain fluid from her brain. Haynes has said his client, who has a history of postpartum depression (search), is disoriented and incompetent to stand trial. She remains in jail, pending a bond hearing Monday.
Macaulay said the surgeries left Schlosser dependent on her mother and unable to do several things at a time. He said she was also stressed at the time of the killing, trying to cope with the baby, her mother's suffering from Parkinson's Disease (search) and financial problems brought on by her husband's layoff.
Schlosser was accused of child neglect earlier this year, but a state investigation found she did not pose a risk to the baby or her other two daughters.
A judge granted temporary custody of the girls, ages 6 and 9, to Texas Child Protective Services (search) after the agency determined their father, John Schlosser, had failed to protect them from their mother.
Macaulay said family members are considering whether to seek custody of the girls. John Schlosser did not return e-mail or telephone messages seeking comment.