Mental evaluation ordered for Sacramento woman in killings
YERINGTON, Nev. – Arraignment for a woman accused of killing her pregnant niece and then surgically removing her unborn baby was postponed Monday pending a psychiatric evaluation.
Lyon County District Court Judge Archie Blake signed the order sought by defense lawyers to determine Erin Kuhn’s mental competence to face double murder charges.
Attorneys Tod Young and Mike Roeser claim the Sacramento woman twice tried to commit suicide while in jail and is mentally incapable of assisting them in her legal defense.
The judge ordered Kuhn, 31, to be transported to Lake’s Crossing, a state mental facility in Sparks. There, psychiatrists and psychologists will determine whether she understands the proceedings against her and is legally competent to stand trial.
Deputy District Attorney John Schlegelmilch downplayed the alleged suicide attempts during a preliminary hearing last month.
One incident reportedly involved cuts made to her arm with a light bulb. Another time, Kuhn reportedly wrapped a bed sheet around her neck when sheriff’s deputies entered her cell.
But Schlegelmilch did not oppose the defense motion Monday and later expressed confidence Kuhn will stand trial.
”We feel she will come back as competent,” Schlegelmilch told reporters after a brief court appearance.
Kuhn is charged with murder by child abuse for allegedly killing her niece, Kathaleena Draper, 17, in a Fernley motel room last June 15 or 16.
She faces an additional murder charge for the death of Draper’s baby boy, who was four weeks shy of being full term when Kuhn allegedly cut it from Draper’s womb.
Prosecutors claim Kuhn killed her niece when she backed out of an agreement to allow Kuhn to adopt her baby, then surgically removed the baby at the motel room about 30 miles east of Reno.
Draper’s body was found June 17, wrapped in a blue shower curtain near Sacramento. After her arrest, Kuhn led authorities to the spot along U.S. 95 Alternate south of Fernley, where the baby’s body was found in a garbage bag. Another garbage bag found there contained a serrated knife and a surgical gown and mask that prosecutors think Kuhn used while committing the crimes.
Kuhn told police her niece was knocked out during a struggle at the motel and that she was trying to save the baby’s life when she cut it from the mother’s abdomen.
But pathologists testified at the preliminary hearing that Draper died of asphyxiation after a rubber glove was stuffed down her throat.
A coroner was unable to pinpoint the baby’s cause of death, but medical experts said the child was healthy and would have survived if it had been delivered normally.
Schlegelmilch said his office must decide by Feb. 2 whether to seek the death penalty.
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