A woman accused of throwing her granddaughter several stories from an elevated walkway outside a northern Virginia mall has a history of mental illness, an attorney said Wednesday.

Deputy Public Defender Dawn Butorac said that it is very early in the investigation, but the defense team is exploring 50-year-old Carmela Dela Rosa's mental health.

The Fairfax, Va., woman is charged with murder in the death of 2-year-old Angelyn Ogdoc. Police said Dela Rosa was leaving the mall with the toddler and two other adult relatives when she abruptly picked the girl up and threw her over the railing at Tysons Corner Center in Fairfax, just south of Washington, D.C. Angelyn died in a hospital several hours later.

Dela Rosa was being held without bond, and a preliminary hearing in the case was set for Jan. 4.

Mireya Soia-Galvarro, a friend and neighbor of Dela Rosa's for 11 years, said Wednesday that she keeps thinking there must be a mistake, or what happened was a horrible accident.

She says Dela Rosa treasured Angelyn, her first granddaughter.

Dela Rosa was always talking about her granddaughter, saying she will "enjoy the time because she's young, she can play with her, take care of her," Soia-Galvarro said.

"I don't think she did this on purpose. She adored that kid," Soia-Galvarro said.

She also said she didn't believe Dela Rosa showed signs of mental illness.

"I never saw anything but happy or laughing, never saw her upset," she said.

Soia-Galvarro described Dela Rosa as "the nicest person in neighborhood."

She said her neighbor never showed signs of any illness, until a month ago, when she was taken away in an ambulance.

"Maybe she felt a little sick," Soia-Galvarro said. "I didn't want to be rude" and ask outright what was wrong, she said.


Associated Press writers Matthew Barakat and Sarah Brumfield contributed to this story from McLean, Va.