Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Judge weighs mother's insanity plea



By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - A Butler County judge could decide today if he agrees with a psychologist's report that says a 29-year-old mother is competent to stand trial on charges she caused the death of her 7-month-old son.

Aimee Leonard, of Madison Township, is charged with setting the Feb. 4 fire at her mobile home that killed Justin A. Johnson Jr.

Common Pleas Judge Matthew J. Crehan rescheduled Leonard's competency hearing for today after her attorney, Ron Morgan, failed to attend a hearing Tuesday.

Crehan will be considering a report filed last week in which a clinical psychologist said Leonard understands the charges against her and is capable of helping her lawyer defend her. Leonard is charged with involuntary manslaughter and child endangering. She faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Psychologist Robert Kurzhals said Leonard does not meet criteria for a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. He found she has limited intellectual functioning and may suffer from bipolar disorder. But he said she understands the wrongfulness of her actions.

Authorities accuse Leonard of igniting a piece of clothing and throwing it on the floor of her home in the Catalina Manufactured Home Community. She escaped, they said, left her son in his crib.

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E-mail jmorse@enquirer.com




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