March 10, 2005
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AP Worldstream; 3/8/2005; CAROLYN THOMPSON, Associated Press Writer
Dateline: BUFFALO, New York
Kirsten Vanderlinde, 36, will likely spend years in a psychiatric institution, her attorney said Tuesday after the judge issued her verdict following a weeklong trial.
Vanderlinde was charged with second-degree murder for killing Melissa, who suffered severe head trauma when her mother held her by an ankle and drove her into the concrete as passers-by leapt from cars to intervene.
Erie County Judge Shirley Troutman, who heard the case without a jury, cited "voluminous" records that documented Vanderlinde's frequent psychiatric hospitalizations in the years before the May 28, 2004, attack, as well as her behavior in the days that followed.
While in jail, Vanderlinde tried eating a mattress and drank from a toilet, appeared to rock and feed an invisible baby and asked to make a phone call to check on Melissa, the judge noted.
She ordered Vanderlinde committed to a secure mental health institution and further psychiatric evaluation.
Defense attorney John Nuchereno said Vanderlinde suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and had stopped taking her anti-psychotic medication shortly before killing her daughter.
The baby's father, who is also mentally ill, had left their apartment, Nuchereno said, because he had difficulty coping with the baby's crying.
"Kirsten's just a wonderful, nice woman," the lawyer said. "Unfortunately, the support she had just wasn't there when she needed it most."
Shortly before the attack, a police officer drove Vanderlinde home after finding her walking around outside in her nightgown, carrying her baby. The officer said she went with Vanderlinde into her apartment, where she said Vanderlinde answered questions appropriately.
During her trial, Vanderlinde's father described her as a bright and loving child who developed schizophrenia as a college student, while studying to follow in his footsteps and teach. Her mother was virtually incapacitated by the same illness, Peter Vanderlinde said.
Kirsten Vanderlinde showed no obvious emotion during Tuesday's verdict, looking down at the defense table.
Nuchereno said she is filled with remorse.
"For years, Kirsten knew because of her illness that finding a normal life would be near impossible," Nuchereno said. "But she knew that by having a child, she would have one individual who would unconditionally love her for life.
"She's aware that she's taken that life and is devastated," the lawyer said. "She'll never have another chance at that."
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