Thursday, September 23, 2004

Accused killer delusional, psychiatrist tells court



By Sharon Coolidge
Enquirer staff writer

[photo]
Christina Miracle was in court Wednesday.
[photo]
Angie Hockney (front left) listens in court Wednesday during a hearing on whether her sister, Christina Miracle, could go to trial.
The Enquirer/GARY LANDERS

BATAVIA - A woman accused of killing her 6-year-old son in February suffers from a mental illness that made her delusional the day the boy was slain, the psychiatrist who is treating her said during a court hearing Wednesday.

Christina Miracle, 25, of Miami Township, was indicted earlier this year on charges of murder and involuntary manslaughter in the Feb. 6 death of Brandon Lehn. Authorities have said the boy died of homicidal violence. Miracle pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the charges. But Clermont County Common Pleas Judge Robert Ringland found Miracle competent to stand trial and her case will proceed.

Dr. Adelaida Fernandez has treated Miracle at Summit Behavioral Center in Cincinnati, where she has spent the past seven months.

"We've tried a few different medications and she's improved," Fernandez said. "She is now able to assist in her defense and understands the court process."

Miracle takes antipsychotic medicine to stabilize her moods, Fernandez said.

Today would have been Brandon's seventh birthday.

Miracle's older sister, Angie Hockey, began crying when Miracle walked in the courtroom, her wrists cuffed in front her.

Miracle's tears flowed as she locked gazes with her sister. Hockney reached out and gave her sister's shoulder a squeeze and handed her tissue paper to wipe away the tears.

Brandon lived in a Miami Township apartment with his mother, but saw his father, David Lehn, often.

In March 2003, Miracle began acting irrationally. She was paranoid, worried that somebody had poisoned the water, family members have said.

Hockney gave this version of what happened in an interview with the Enquirer in March.

Miracle was admitted to a psychiatric ward at Mercy Hospital Clermont for two days and then released. In the following days Miracle was re-admitted to the hospital. She stayed for a week.

Hospital officials told Miracle's family she suffered from major depression and sent her home with medication and orders to see a counselor.

The medicine made Miracle groggy, barely able to walk - let alone care for her son - so she stopped taking it, Hockney said.

Besides, Miracle told her family, she was feeling better.

, Fernandez said Miracle's records show Miracle has had delusions and paranoia in the past.

Her statements confirm Hockney's description of what happened in 2003.

Fernandez said Miracle never sought additional treatment.

The morning of Feb. 5, Brandon didn't go to school. When David Lehn called to find out why, Brandon said his mother was "talking freaky."

The next day, Brandon was dead.

The Hamilton County coroner who performed Brandon's autopsy said the child had a pattern of bruises on his back consistent with him having been beaten. He also had a torn upper lip.

"He died from some sort of asphyxiation," Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor Daniel Breyer previously said. "Either suffocation through strangulation or drowning."

Immediately after Brandon's death, authorities took Miracle to University Hospital, and she was later admitted at Summit Behavioral Center for treatment.

Fernandez reported that in the days after Miracle was admitted, she was depressed and cried often. Once, in June, Miracle was placed on suicide watch after saying she didn't want to go on living without her son.

Miracle's moods have been stabilized, but Fernandez said: "She'll have to have a lifetime commitment to monitoring and medication."

Fernandez described the bipolar diagnosis as a mood disorder in which there are periods when a person has an elevated mood characterized by racing thoughts, poor judgment and incredible energy.

It can also bring on psychotic delusions and exaggerated religious thoughts, Fernandez said.

At other times, the person can feel depressed, sluggish or, sometimes suicidal, she said.

It isn't unusual, Fernandez said, to be diagnosed with depression and later suffer a psychotic episode.

Miracle doesn't remember much about what happened the day Brandon died.

"She has very fragmented memories of that day," Fernandez said.

The psychiatrist did not detail what happened that February morning, saying only "from what she told me she was experiencing delusions."

Fernandez added that she doesn't expect Miracle's memories to return.

Ringland ordered Miracle to stay at Summit Behavioral Center.

Her lawyer, Scott Croswell III, asked the judge to let Miracle be released for a few hours at a time to visit with her family or work on her defense with him, as other patients at Summit are allowed to do.

Ringland wants Fernandez to evaluate whether that is possible and said he'd make a decision after hearing from the psychiatrist.

Phyllis Lehn, Brandon's paternal grandmother, also attended the hearing.

She said the months since Brandon died have seemed like an eternity. Everything reminds her of her grandson.

Today , after work, Lehn plans to visit her grandson's grave at Gate of Heaven Cemetery.

She's bringing cupcakes, ice cream and balloons. It's the celebration she would have thrown at home had Brandon lived.

Lehn said some don't understand why she's planning a birthday party.

But, to her it's simple: She wants to be with her grandson.

E-mail scoolidge@enquirer.com




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