PLANO, Texas – Long before Dena Schlosser (search) took a blade to her baby's arms, her parents had begun to worry. In the years after she moved to Texas with her husband and children, their gentle, dependent daughter had become increasingly isolated. And, according to her stepfather, she was dangerously consumed by a self-described prophet and his church.
Mick Macaulay said he believes his stepdaughter, who severed the arms of 10-month-old daughter Margaret and left her to die, was mentally ill. He added, however, that he also thinks the teachings of Doyle Davidson (search) played a role.
"I don't think there's any question that what we saw happen here is postpartum psychosis," Macaulay said in a telephone interview. "But that doesn't mean there aren't dynamics in force to push the person toward the psychotic break."
Schlosser was charged with capital murder after police found the 35-year-old mother on Nov. 22 covered in blood in her living room, still holding a knife.
Macaulay said Schlosser had been emotionally dependent on her mother since childhood, when she had several operations to remove an abnormal amount of fluid from her brain. After the surgeries, Schlosser's brain functions seemed normal. She went on to college in Illinois, married her husband John and became a mother.
The Schlossers moved to Texas about five years ago. John soon lost his job and began working for himself as a consultant. The family had to trade their spacious home for a small apartment, and a midwife delivered Margaret because they had no health insurance.
The stress of money, a new baby and a mother who has Parkinson's disease (search) affected Schlosser. Texas Child Protective Services (search) investigated her for neglect in January after she left the newborn alone and her 5-year-old daughter was seen chasing her mother down the street on a bicycle.
Schlosser received psychiatric treatment for postpartum depression (search) and the agency determined she was stable in August.
By then, though, Schlosser's association with Davidson's church had intensified, Macaulay said.
He said Davidson used violent imagery and told women they possessed a rebellious "Jezebel" spirit, and that they should submit to their husbands, he said.
"I'm not saying that anybody suggested 'Go cut your baby's arms off,'" said Macaulay, a mental health counselor who lives with Schlosser's mother, Connie, in Canada. "This diminishing of women, this diminishing of women's powers, women's importance, referring to women as jezebels, I think, further undermines an already fragile ego state that Dena's experiencing."
That's absurd, the 72-year-old minister said.
"I'm an apostle and I'm a prophet," Davidson said. "I only teach what's in the Bible and that's what makes them mad."
Davidson, a former veterinarian, said God told him to start Water of Life Ministries (search) in suburban Dallas in the early 1980s. His sermons, based on literal interpretations of the Bible, are available on his Web site and broadcast on TV and radio in several states.
He refers to Methodist, Catholic and Baptist denominations as cults and believes the Ten Commandments apply only to the disobedient, not the righteous.
Davidson doesn't deny his teachings are unconventional. He said he avoids violent imagery, but he does teach that women are weaker and should submit to their husbands.
He also said he isn't well-liked by much of the religious community, and he was removed from the Daystar Television Network (search), a major Christian broadcaster, after his sermons offended top officials.
In September, Davidson was arrested on a public intoxication charge after a couple, longtime members of his church, called 911, alleging the minister attacked them at their home. Davidson said he was only trying to cast the devil out of the wife, who had become rebellious and rejected his teachings. He said he entered the home with the permission of her husband.
The couple told police Davidson choked the woman. The couple declined to press assault charges and several calls by the AP to their home went unanswered.
Davidson said he believes the incident was a "setup of Satan himself to try and destroy my ministry."
Davidson claimed he's had little interaction with Dena since the Schlossers began attending his roughly 200-member church in 2002.
But Macaulay said Schlosser, who spoke to her mother almost daily by phone, talked incessantly about Davidson, urging them to listen to sermons on his Web site. Macaulay said they listened to about 60 hours of sermons, which only fed their concern.
Macaulay said Schlosser started using prayer instead of antibiotics when her children were sick and was convinced Davidson could cure her mother of Parkinson's. When Connie Macaulay visited two years ago, Schlosser had Davidson "lay hands on" her mother to drive out evil spirits and disease.
"Dena was so confident that Connie was cured that they threw out her medicine," Macaulay said.
Schlosser's husband, John, also supported the minister. His personal Web site contains several Bible passages and a link to Davidson's Web site. He has refused to give media interviews.
Macaulay said that as he and his wife struggle to understand their daughter's unthinkable crime, the minister is ever-present on their minds.
"(Connie) looked at me somewhat plaintively after she had a good cry the other day and said 'I hope Dena won't go back to that church,'" he said.