Texas mom who dismembered baby not guilty by
reason of insanity, will go to state institution
July 1, 2010
A San Antonio woman who told authorities the devil
made her mutilate and dismember her newborn was found not guilty by
reason of insanity Thursday, in a deal that sends her to a state
mental institution rather than to face a trial and possible prison
Defense attorneys entered the plea on behalf of
Otty Sanchez, 33, and it was accepted shortly thereafter as part of an
agreement with prosecutors.
Scott Wesley Buchholz-Sanchez was three weeks old
when authorities who received a frantic 911 call from the boy's aunt
arrived to find his mutilated body, and Sanchez wailing the devil made
her do it. On the call, Sanchez can be heard screaming, "I didn't mean
to do it! He told me to!" while her sister pleads for an ambulance.
"This was probably one of the most horrendous cases
that we have seen as far as the murder of a child," said County
District Attorney Susan Reed.
Sanchez was charged with capital murder and was
found competent to stand trial. But Reed said after three examinations
by separate doctors determined she was legally insane when she killed
her son, the court had no choice but to accept the plea.
"She will be committed until the court decides she
is not a danger to herself or anyone else," Reed said.
Reed said she was horrified by what Sanchez did,
but also disturbed by the fact that she had sought treatment before
killing her son and did not receive the care she needed.
"A lot of people are OK when they are taking their
medications but once they stop taking them, they are a danger again,"
Sanchez periodically sought treatment for mental
illness before her son was born and even spent a few hours in an
emergency room after the birth because she was hearing voices less
than a week before the attack.
Defense attorney Ed Camara said she had been
prescribed the antidepressant citalopram after giving birth but had
only taken it the day before killing her son. The drugs do not take
effect for a few weeks.
An estimated 1,000 women are afflicted with
postpartum psychosis. Women with the diagnosis can suffer dangerous
delusions and desires to hurt their children, unlike postpartum
depression, which occurs in as many as one in five new mothers.
Andrea Yates, the
suburban Houston mother who drowned her five children in a bathtub in
2001, and Dena Schlosser, who cut off her baby's arms in 2004 both
suffered from the psychosis, their attorneys said.
The justice system has come a long way since Yates
was convicted and faced a possible death sentence in 2002, said her
attorney, Greg Parnham.
Yates was sentenced to life in prison before her
case was overturned on appeal, after which she was found not guilty by
reason of insanity in 2006 and sent to a state hospital.
"I think that we have to understand as a society
that this gender-based mental disability is real," Parnham said. "New
mothers sometimes experience severe depression — some of those mothers
Mental health documents released in case of
mother who killed and ate parts of son
By Christopher Heath - Kens5.com
July 1, 2010
The mental evaluations, submitted by lawyers in the
case of 33-year-old Otty Sanchez paint a picture of a woman beaten,
molested and diagnosed with various forms of psychosis, and in and out
of hospitals for half a decade before she killed her infant son.
The court documents, obtained by KENS 5,
were completed by three separate doctors who each evaluated Sanchez to
determine her competency. Doctors Randall Sellers and Lucy Puryear
conducted the interviews with Otty Sanchez in the weeks that followed
the death of three-week-old Scott Wesley Buchholz-Sanchez.
In the interviews, Sanchez details using
drugs for the first time in 2006. She says it was at that time that
she first began to hear voices.
Drug use led her to Austin where she
attempted to track down a former boyfriend named "Victor". While in
Austin she was admitted to the Austin State Hospital. Doctors at the
hospital diagnosed her with psychosis; however, she was issued a
prescription and released.
On June 20, 2008 Ms. Sanchez was seen at
the Center for Healthcare Services in San Antonio. Court documents
indicate that she was paranoid, mildly delusional, depressed and
psychotic with hallucinations; her medication was changed.
While on the medication, the voices in
Sanchez's head went away, but unable to afford the cost of the
medication, Sanchez stopped taking the psychotropic medication.
Shortly after going off the meds, Sanchez
During her pregnancy she was sent to a
counselor for depression, however, she did not want to go on any
After the birth of baby Scott, Otty
Sanchez slipped into further depression and the voices began to
On July 20, 2009, Ms. Sanchez was taken
by EMS to Metropolitan Methodist Hospital. According to the report by
Dr. Sellers, Otty Sanchez had auditory and visual hallucinations as
well as delusions. Sanchez indicated that she needed to be
hospitalized; however, she was discharged to her sister.
In the days leading up to the death of
baby Scott, Sanchez says she was paranoid, fearing that people were
spying on her and plotting to take her baby from her. Her paranoia
became worse when the voices began to get worse. For days, Sanchez
says, the voices told her that the devil was in her son; she would
avoid looking into his eyes for fear of "see[ing] the devil".
Through the course of her evaluation by
Dr. Sellers, Sanchez elaborated on the circumstances surrounding the
death of baby Scott and what the voices were saying. According to
Sanchez, the voices told her that her mother had killed President John
F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, and that the KKK was mad at her mother
for killing JFK.
In Sanchez's interview with Dr. Puryear,
she says, "the voices told me to hurt Scotty… he was going to be the
Further on the in the interview, Sanchez
explains the decision to kill her son, saying, "the voices told [me]
to eat his insides, I was a harlot because I had committed adultery…
there was a demon in my stomach." The demons would come out of her
stomach if she ate Scotty. This had to be done by 5 in the morning.
Scotty would evolve and he would no longer be possessed."
Sanchez says the act of eating her child
made her "gag and throw up", but the voices told her to eat again.
After her arrest for the death of Scotty,
Otty Sanchez was taken to University Hospital where she continued to
hear the voices, this time telling her that she was going to get a
heart transplant and that she was going to be hurt.
Both Doctors Sellers and Puryear
concluded after their evaluations that Otty Sanchez was suffering from
In her report, Dr. Puryear wrote, "It is
my medical opinion that Ms. Otty Sanchez was incapable of telling the
difference reality and her delusions."
Doctor Sellers echoed similar comments,
writing, "It is my opinion, based upon reasonable medical evidence
that Ms. Sanchez had a severe mental illness, Paranoid Schizophrenia
at the time of the alleged crime."
On Thursday, Otty Sanchez was found not guilty by
reason of insanity. She will be sent to a state mental institution in
Vernon, Texas where she will receive a yearly evaluation of her
mental capacity by the court.
The shocking case of Otty Sanchez exposes the
holes in Texas' mental health care system
By Dave Mann - TexasObserver.org
January 13, 2010
The first police officers at the
crime scene were so shocked they could barely speak. When they arrived
at the white-paneled house on San Antonio's north side at 5 a.m. on
July 26, officers found a bedroom doused in blood, the decapitated and
mutilated body of a baby not even a month old, and his mother,
33-year-old Otty Sanchez, screaming that the devil made her do it.
Sanchez had left the baby's father after a fight
and was staying with her mother and cousins. Around 4:30 a.m., while
the rest of the family slept, she'd attacked her infant son with a
large kitchen knife. Police officers would describe the crime as one
of the most gruesome they had ever seen. Some of them later needed
It was hard to imagine that anyone in her right
mind could do such a thing. And it turned out that Sanchez was
suffering from postpartum psychosis, a rare but severe form of
postpartum depression in which paranoid hallucinations prod new
mothers to violence. (Postpartum psychosis and its potentially tragic
consequences gained national notoriety after the trial of Andrea
Yates, the Houston woman who killed her five children in 2001.)
Sanchez had been enduring a mental-health crisis for at least a week
before the killing. But when she reached out for help—like so many
Texans with severe mental illness—she was left to fend for herself.
Just six days before she killed her son, on July
20, Sanchez had met with a counselor at the obstetrics-gynecology
clinic that ushered her through pregnancy. The counselor, Luinda
Combs, could tell right away that Sanchez wasn't well. Sanchez spoke
of delusional, paranoid thoughts that other women were trying to
breastfeed her baby. She was "hearing voices which have informed her
others would like to take her baby away," according to Combs' notes
from that session. "Client also reports visual images of other
children's faces transposed on her baby's face." (The Observer
was granted access to these medical records with Otty Sanchez's
Combs suspected right away that Sanchez had
postpartum psychosis. She knew Sanchez had a history of depression and
had been institutionalized a year earlier with paranoid schizophrenia.
New mothers with severe mental illness are much more likely to suffer
postpartum psychosis. Most alarming of all, Sanchez had stopped taking
her anti-psychotic medication because of the side effects.
Combs told Sanchez she needed an immediate
psychiatric evaluation and called an ambulance to rush her to the
hospital. The counselor wanted to make sure Sanchez wasn't mindlessly
shuffled through a busy emergency room, so she called ahead to let
Metropolitan Methodist Hospital's psychiatric unit know that Sanchez
would soon arrive with a likely diagnosis of postpartum psychosis.
Combs wrote in her notes that the "hospital worker did not want to
take information over the phone." So she also gave "specific details
of client's delusions and hallucinations" to the EMS workers to pass
along to the hospital personnel.
Combs' message about the severity of Sanchez's
condition didn't quite get through. At the hospital, Sanchez would be
diagnosed with visual hallucinations and audible voices, but nowhere
in Sanchez's hospital records does the more alarming diagnosis Combs
The ambulance arrived at Metropolitan Methodist, a
private hospital, at 11:39 a.m. Sanchez waited 20 minutes and was
examined in the emergency room at 12:05, according to hospital records
obtained by the Observer. Though Sanchez had been rushed to
the hospital because of a mental-health crisis, for the next three
hours, nurses gave her only physical tests and lab work and determined
that her body was mostly healthy.
A little before 3 p.m., more than three hours after
her arrival, Sanchez was finally examined by a member of the
hospital's psychiatric team—not a psychiatrist, but a trained
counselor. The evaluation lasted 44 minutes, and the records of that
session show the seriousness of Sanchez's condition. She was
experiencing "voices and hallucinations," according to hospital
records, and "sees babies [sic] face change."
Sanchez asked to be admitted to the hospital's
31-bed inpatient psychiatric unit. "[Patient] states she needs to be
admitted for voices," according to the records. Inpatient treatment
had worked for Sanchez before. During a similar crisis in 2008, she
had been hospitalized for more than two weeks until her mental
condition stabilized. Now she was asking for similar treatment.
Sanchez was a good candidate for inpatient care.
Here was a diagnosed schizophrenic who had been institutionalized a
year before, who had recently given birth, who had stopped taking her
meds, who was hearing voices and hallucinating, seeing her baby's face
change into other faces. "She's got a big red light on her head saying
'I'm going to explode any minute,'" says her lawyer, Ed Camara. "You
think they would at least talk to her doctor or ask her about her
history. But they don't do anything like that."
Instead, the hospital employed another standard for
admission to its psych unit. It mostly boiled down to a simple
question: Did Sanchez feel suicidal or homicidal? New mothers will
rarely answer this question honestly. Many will never admit to
suicidal or infanticidal thoughts because—in addition to the societal
stigma of saying they might harm their baby—they fear that, if they
answer honestly, the government will try to take their child away.
Sanchez was already having paranoid hallucinations about strangers
lusting after her son.
It's hard to know exactly what was in Sanchez's
mind at the time. (Because her case is pending, she couldn't be
interviewed for this story.) But whatever she was thinking, Sanchez
told the hospital counselor that she was "not suicidal, not homicidal,
no command hallucinations," according to hospital records. (Command
hallucinations are voices that instruct a person to take specific
actions.) The counselor checked the "no" box on a form next to the
line that reads, "Is the patient having suicidal or homicidal ideation
and/or making threats?"
Asked about the hospital's standard for admission
to the psych unit, a spokesperson for Metropolitan Methodist responded
to the Observer by e-mail: "Qualified mental health
professional perform [sic] a psych assessment, focusing on three
things: whether patient is suicidal, homicidal or experiencing a
deterioration such that, if we let them out of the hospital, they
would be a danger to themselves or somebody else. The qualified mental
health professional then gives assessment recommendation to ER doctor
and doctor makes his own assessment on whether patient needs to be
admitted. Doctors [sic] recommendation always stands. Doctor bears
liability for decision."
Sanchez was sent home with the name of a clinic she
could contact for outpatient services, though she was given no address
or contact information. She never made an appointment. That's not
uncommon. People in mental-health crises often can't care for
themselves. Their mental state is too debilitated and agitated for
basic outpatient care; they can't be relied upon to take medication or
show up for appointments. They often need to be hospitalized for a
short period until their minds stabilize to the point that they can
function on their own.
The hospital also provided Sanchez with an
information sheet—Camara calls it a "you're crazy" document—that lists
general descriptions of "Hallucinations and Delusions" and of
"Schizophrenia." The document instructed her to "Call your doctor or
go to the emergency room right away if your symptoms get worse."
As Camara puts it, "They're telling a crazy person
that 'you're crazy,' and to take care of yourself.'"
And that was that. Just 11 minutes after her psych
evaluation ended, Sanchez was discharged from the hospital, at 3:53
Six days later, she was back in an emergency room,
this time at San Antonio's large public hospital. She was escorted by
police officers. Her face was still smeared with blood from consuming
parts of her son.
Texas may have the most beleaguered
public mental-health system in the country. The state ranks 49th
nationally in per-capita spending on mental health; only New Mexico is
worse, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. State lawmakers have
shorted the system for years. The result of this miserly approach is
that hundreds of thousands of Texans with severe mental illnesses must
fend for themselves.
For many people, the public system—such as it
is—remains the only option. Private facilities are often prohibitively
expensive, and most insurance plans offer minimal coverage for
mental-health care. A few days' stay at a private treatment facility
will usually exhaust the mental-health benefit offered by even the
most decadent insurance plans.
Yet in Texas' public system, only the lucky ones
receive services. Texas operates a dozen state hospitals, which are
almost always near capacity and difficult to gain admittance to
because of limited bed space. A network of 39 community mental-health
authorities offers counseling, medication and other outpatient
services. But with extreme funding shortages, the community centers
can offer help to only a sliver of the people who need it. State
officials have estimated that the centers can afford to treat only
about one-third of the Texans with severe mental illnesses, leaving at
least 400,000 largely without care.
The irony of the Otty Sanchez case is that, of all
the places in Texas to suffer a mental-health crisis, San Antonio
might be the best equipped to offer treatment.
"We have a success story to tell," says Leon Evans,
who heads the Center for Health Care Services, the public
mental-health clinic in San Antonio. The clinic, like many other
community mental-health centers across Texas, is horribly underfunded
by the state. But the center has forged alliances with the police,
judges and other health-care providers in San Antonio to create some
of the most innovative treatment programs in the country. Among other
innovations, the center worked with San Antonio police on a program
that trains officers how to spot and calmly subdue people who have
severe mental illnesses without resorting to violence or arrests.
The Center for Health Care Services, which treated
Sanchez for three months in 2008, has also created jail-diversion
programs aimed at keeping nonviolent offenders with substance-abuse
problems or mental illness out of prisons. In 2005, the center helped
open a 10-bed inpatient mental-health crisis center, where people can
stay for 23 hours if they have nowhere else to go. (The crisis center
accepts referrals from hospitals when their psych units are full.
Metropolitan Methodist could have sent Sanchez to the 23-hour crisis
center if the hospital's psych unit had no room for her.) Combined,
these programs are keeping nearly 1,000 people a month out of the
county jail. That saves taxpayer money and, by providing people
treatment instead of incarceration, greatly reduces the chances that
they'll break the law again.
But despite those successes, the lack of funding
minimizes what these programs can accomplish. "Money is very tight,"
says Gilbert Gonzales, who oversees the jail-diversion programs and
also serves as spokesman for the Center for Health Care Services.
"There's only so many people we can treat because we literally don't
have enough money to meet the need."
State funding for mental-health services hasn't
kept pace with demand. One main reason, Evans points out, is the way
Texas doles out money to the community centers around the state. The
funding is not based on the population of the area a clinic serves.
Rural areas with shrinking populations receive far more money per
capita than Houston, San Antonio and Dallas—cities with exploding
populations and rising numbers of people with mental illness. There
have been many attempts to change the way money is allocated. Most
advocates realize that the level of mental-health funding should be
based on population, but the Legislature has resisted this change;
it's been blocked largely by rural lawmakers whose sparsely populated
districts would lose money.
Evans and his staff stretch the meager funds as far
as possible. The state provides enough money for the Center for Health
Care Services to treat 4,240 people a month. But the center stretches
it to treat about 6,000 adults and children (42 percent above the
state's goal). Even so, the center can't meet the need. There is now a
waiting list for services of several hundred people per month. "We're
way under-funded," Evans says. "Our employees' heads are about to
explode because they're so overworked."
It means that many people fall through the cracks.
Otty Sanchez was one of them.
In Sanchez's family, hearing voices
or seeing the occasional hallucination isn't unusual. Her mother,
aunts and cousins have all had similar mental illness.
Sanchez was an only child and never knew her
father. She grew up in a crowded household with seven other relatives,
including her mother. The family moved often, living in at least three
states during Otty's childhood. They returned to San Antonio from
California when Otty entered high school. Sanchez's mother and two of
her cousins turned down interview requests.
Although Sanchez would later be diagnosed with
paranoid schizophrenia, her relatives had no idea she had mental
illness until just last year, according to medical and court records
(and to Camara, her lawyer, who has extensively interviewed the
family). That's partly explained by other relatives' illnesses. But
her symptoms were also easy to ignore; they didn't obviously disrupt
her life until just last year. In fact, family friends often described
Otty as one of the most level-headed people in the family.
She has been hearing voices since age 5, according
to the report from a psychiatric evaluation recently conducted on her
in the county jail. The voices are often "good voices telling her
everything is going to be OK," according to the report by Brian Skop,
a psychiatrist appointed by the court to evaluate Sanchez's competency
to stand trial. But she also hears "bad voices. ... One voice in
particular named 'Lucy,' which is telling me to do bad things like eat
my hand," she told Skop.
Sanchez was mostly able to live with these voices
and mild paranoia for years. She finished high school and began taking
pharmacy-technician classes. That's where, in 2003, she met Scott
Buchholz, who also is schizophrenic. The two began a dysfunctional,
on-again, off-again relationship.
Sanchez's mental illness worsened in the past five
years. Her behavior became erratic. She had trouble staying employed,
bouncing from one low-paying job to another. She worked at fast-food
restaurants and briefly as a home health caretaker.
In late May 2008, Sanchez went to Austin with a
friend. While her friend was getting an acupuncture treatment, Sanchez
wandered off. She walked into a CVS and prowled the store for the next
seven hours. Police arrived and took her to the Austin State Hospital,
where she stayed for 16 days. It was the first time her family learned
of the severity of her mental illness. After her mental state
stabilized, Sanchez was released. The nurses at Austin State Hospital
referred her to outpatient care at the Center for Health Care Services
in San Antonio. They gave Sanchez the contact information, set up an
appointment for her and later called to make sure she showed up.
Throughout the summer of 2008, Sanchez, who was
uninsured at the time, received free outpatient treatment from the San
Antonio clinic, including regular counseling sessions and
anti-psychotic medication. She soon was feeling much better, according
to her health records.
But in early September 2008, that all changed. The
Center for Health Care Services—its budget strapped as ever—could no
longer afford to provide Sanchez treatment. She would have to either
pay or qualify for a government benefit. Camara, her lawyer, says that
Sanchez believed she could never afford the treatment. So when her
next appointment rolled around, Sanchez didn't show. The clinic
workers didn't have the time or resources to track her down. They
moved on to the next client on the waiting list. A month later, the
center classified Sanchez's file as closed. "They let her drop out,
and they have to, because they don't have the money," Camara says.
At about the same time she stopped receiving
treatment, Sanchez reunited with Buchholz. In late September 2008, she
got pregnant. You needn't be a psychiatrist to see trouble looming for
two schizophrenics, one off her medication, deciding to have a baby.
Yet Sanchez managed her pregnancy without incident.
She gave birth to Scotty Buchholz on June 30, 2009. Her OB-GYN
prescribed anti-psychotic medication—she had given up medication
during pregnancy—but Sanchez said the drug made her too tired. She
stopped taking it on July 17, nine days before she attacked her baby.
Her doctor planned to offer her a different drug, but before that
could happen, Sanchez had one of her frequent fights with Buchholz. On
July 20, she left him and descended into crisis. Emotional stress
often exacerbates postpartum depression. Sanchez soon found herself in
the emergency room at Metropolitan Methodist, asking for help.
After the hospital ushered her out the door with
little more than an information sheet, there was still one last
opportunity to prevent the killing. On the afternoon of July 25, 12
hours before the attack, Sanchez visited Buchholz and his mother,
Kathleen. Sanchez had been living with her relatives and wanted to
retrieve from Buchholz the baby's diaper bag and her medication. She
hadn't taken a pill in eight days.
Buchholz's mother noticed that Sanchez seemed
erratic and paranoid. Neither Buchholz nor his mother would agree to
an interview for this story. A relative who answered the phone at
Buchholz's home said he's no longer speaking with reporters. This
account comes from Camara, the attorney, who has interviewed everyone
who was present that afternoon. At one point, Sanchez refused to let
Kathleen Buchholz hold the baby because she feared Kathleen was trying
to steal her son or breastfeed him.
The Buchholzes told Sanchez that she needed to seek
help. At that, Sanchez abruptly got up and fled the house. Kathleen
Buchholz called law enforcement and told officers that Sanchez had run
off with the child and was an unstable schizophrenic. The
officers—members of the Bexar County Sheriff's Department—took no
In the weeks after the attack,
prosecutors confronted a difficult decision: Should Otty Sanchez face
criminal charges or be sent to a state hospital for treatment? Despite
the evidence that Sanchez was insane at the time of the killing, some
in San Antonio openly called for the death penalty. They included
Scott Buchholz, who told a San Antonio television reporter in late
July that "I think she should be punished to the fullest extent of the
law. ... She killed my son. She should burn in hell."
Prosecutors eventually decided to pursue a criminal
case. In September, a grand jury indicted Sanchez for capital murder.
In jail, Sanchez has received the counseling and
medication to which she had such spotty access on the outside. Her
mental condition has stabilized, for the moment. As a result, she's
been found competent to stand trial after examinations by experts
appointed by both the court and her defense attorney. Examiners
concluded that she understood the legal process and the charges
If she remains stable, Sanchez will likely stand
trial this summer. Camara plans to have Sanchez plead not guilty by
reason of insanity—just as Andrea Yates did. He thinks he has a strong
case, but jury trials are unpredictable. Take the Yates case: At her
first trial for killing her five children in 2002, she was convicted
of murder and sentenced to life in prison. That conviction was later
overturned on appeal, and in 2006, Yates was found not guilty by
reason of insanity.
Prosecutors have said they plan to seek the death
penalty for Sanchez. If they do, the very state that for years offered
Otty Sanchez so little treatment and help for her mental illness will
try to execute her.
Mother Competent to Stand Trial for Allegedly
November 12, 2009
Otty Sanchez got six
weeks in a state mental hospital after she was found wandering around
a drug store last year, shopping for an imaginary trip to China.
She got a few hours in an emergency room, then a
ride home, in July as a new mom hearing dark voices.
Three-week-old Scott Wesley Buchholz-Sanchez was
dead six days later, decapitated and missing fingers and toes, while
police say his mother wailed about how the devil made her do it. A
judge ruled Thursday that a jury will decide whether Sanchez is
mentally competent to stand trial after Sanchez's attorney said her
mental condition is worsening.
"In addition to her psychotic condition, her
schizophrenic condition and her postpartum psychotic condition, she
may also be affected by post-traumatic stress disorder," Ed Camara,
Sanchez's attorney, told the court.
Sanchez, 33, is charged with capital murder in the
death of her son. His father said Sanchez should "burn in hell" and
deserves the death penalty for dismembering their only child. He
watched quietly as Sanchez shuffled into court with her head down,
wearing glasses and her black hair cropped short.
Two psychiatric evaluations concluded Sanchez was
competent to stand trial, but Camara said he received a medical report
Tuesday that was more bleak. A date was not immediately set for a jury
to settle the issue.
The autopsy report spells out the attack in
nauseating detail: mutilated genitals, the head nearly decapitated and
the skin flayed. Authorities said Sanchez ate parts of her son,
including the brain, and medical examiners found apparent bite marks
across the body.
Sanchez's sister made the horrifying discovery
before sunrise, and Otty can be heard screaming, "I didn't mean to do
it! He told me to!" while her sister pleads for an ambulance in a
desperate 911 call. Sanchez later wailed to her sister that she
thought everyone was dead.
Bexar County prosecutor Yvonne Gonzalez has said
her office would seek the death penalty on the legal presumption that
Sanchez was sane. Although prosecutors were still gathering medical
records, she said there were signs Sanchez had been "functioning quite
well," including holding down a job for several years.
"We're not really sure she had a long history of
mental illness," Gonzalez said earlier in the week.
Scott Buccholz, the baby's father and a
self-described schizophrenic, insisted that Sanchez had appeared fine
and gave no hint of a severe mental illness.
An estimated one in 1,000 women are afflicted with
postpartum psychosis. Unlike postpartum depression, which occurs in as
many as one in five new mothers, women with postpartum psychosis can
suffer dangerous delusions and desires to hurt their child.
The same illness
tormented Andrea Yates, the suburban Houston mother who drowned her
five children in a bathtub in 2001, and Dena Schlosser, another Texas
mother who cut off her baby's arms in 2004, according to the women's
Doctors say the risk of
developing postpartum psychosis is 50 percent or higher for women with
schizophrenia who are not taking medication. Camara says Sanchez fits
the bill: although Sanchez was prescribed the antidepressant
citalopram after giving birth, she only took it once — the day before
her son was killed. Such drugs take weeks to begin working.
It was one of a handful of times that Sanchez
appeared to try reining in her mental illness.
She wound up shuffling around an Austin drug store
for eight hours last summer, Camara said, only after going to the city
with a friend who said an acupuncturist there could help her mental
A week before the killing, Camara said an ambulance
rushed Sanchez to a hospital from a counseling center where she had
made an appointment because she was feeling depressed and having
Advocates say resources for indigent women with
mental disorders are sparse in Texas, which is ranked 49th in per
capita mental health expenditures, according to the National Alliance
on Mental Illness.
At the Center for Health Care Services in San
Antonio, where Camara said Sanchez was referred for outpatient
treatment, about 2,000 more people are served each year than the state
pays for, CHCS President Leon Evans said.
State mental hospitals are no less overwhelmed.
"My job here is to get people out, bottom line,"
said Dr. David Gonzalez, a psychiatrist at the San Antonio State
Hospital. "They have hired me to treat people so I can get them out of
the hospital. I'm here to keep people out."
Recently, Camara said, music coming from a
jailhouse speaker triggered Sanchez into a flashback of the night her
son died. The hallucinations returned, Camara said, and Sanchez called
over a guard for help.
A jailer handed Sanchez some more medication. She
"If only that had been available to her that
evening," Camara said.
Cannibal mother who decapitated her
three-week-old baby boy 'refused medication for post-natal depression'
July 29, 2009
The cannibal mother who killed and ate parts of her
three-week-old baby boy refused to take medication for her post-natal
depression, her son's father said.
Otty Sanchez had been going to regular counselling
and had been briefly hospitalised since the boy was born in the Texas
city of San Antonio.
But the 33-year-old's troubles only became apparent
to authorities when they found her before dawn on Sunday, in a house
where she had access to samurai swords, screaming that she had killed
Her three-and-a-half-week-old son was dismembered
in a scene so gruesome police officers have been forced to seek
'Maybe we missed' warning signs, San Antonio Police
Chief William McManus said. 'I don't know.'
Sanchez was yesterday released from a hospital
where she was treated for self-inflicted cuts to her torso and an
attempt to slice her own throat.
The former home health care worker, charged with
capital murder, is being held at Bexar County Jail on $1 million bail.
Authorities said Sanchez attempted suicide after
butchering her newborn son, Scott Wesley Buchholz-Sanchez, with a
steak knife and two swords while her sister and two nieces, ages 5 and
7, slept in another room.
Sanchez told police that the devil made her kill,
mutilate and eat parts the child's brain and toes.
Scott W. Buchholz, the infant's father, said he met
Sanchez six years ago while they were studying to be pharmacists
Although his girlfriend had post-natal depression,
he revealed that Sanchez only recently told him she was schizophrenic
but that she did not appear unstable.
He now wants prosecutors to pursue the death
penalty. 'She killed my son. She should burn in hell,' said
Otty Sanchez's medical history is muddled. A family
member said Sanchez had undergone psychiatric treatment and that a
hospital called looking for her several months ago.
Gloria Sanchez, Otty's aunt, said her niece had
been 'in and out of a psychiatric ward.'
'It's just tragic and unbelievable what happened,'
said Greg Garcia, Sanchez's first cousin who considers her a sister.
'She was a good, hard-working person, but she had been diagnosed with
schizophrenia last year.'
In May 2008, Otty Sanchez's mother, Manuela
Sanchez, called police after her daughter didn't return from a trip to
Austin, saying she was concerned about her daughter's safety.
Mrs Sanchez said she suspected Otty was into drugs
and specifically told police she wasn't suffering from any mental
Buchholz, who is himself schizophrenic and takes
six anti-psychotic and anti-convulsive medications, said Otty had
post-natal depression and had been going to counselling after the
birth, but she refused to take prescription medication for her
'She still seemed like a a very caring, loving
mother,' he said.
'She held him, she breast fed him. She did
everything for him that was nice,' he added.
Sanchez was taken to the hospital for depression
July 20 and released less than a day later, Buchholz said.
The mother told him she was schizophrenic and was
going to live with her parents and sister.
Otty Sanchez was treated in
hospital for self-inflicted wounds
Sanchez was arrested at her mother's house, where
police found her and the dead infant.
On Saturday, Sanchez brought 'Baby Scotty' for a
visit but stormed out after Buchholz asked for a copy of the birth
certificate and other documents, Buchholz said.
The father called the police to report that Sanchez
drove away with the infant without properly restraining him in the
car, and deputies investigated it as a disturbance.
'If this guy had given us an indication that she
had post-natal depression, or mental defects she was suffering from,
we may have addressed it differently,' said Bexar County Sheriff Chief
Deputy Dale Bennett.
Buchholz said he may have told the deputy Sanchez
was depressed, but that he wasn't sure.
While schizophrenia generally develops in men in
their late teens and early 20s, women tend to develop the illness,
marked by abnormal impressions of reality, later in life.
Most new mothers suffer from post-natal depression
as hormones shift after a pregnancy and they're fatigued handling a
But as many as one-fifth suffer from the more
serious postpartum depression, which includes symptoms like despair
and failing to eat or sleep.
Post-natal psychosis is far rarer, affecting only
about one woman in 1,000.
Women with post-natal psychosis have delusions,
frequently involving religious symbols and a desire to harm their
newborn, said Richard Pesikoff, a psychiatry professor at the Baylor
College of Medicine.
He testified in the second trial of Andrea Yates,
the high-profile case of a Houston-area mother found not guilty by
reason of insanity after drowning her five children.
Similar to Sanchez's claim that the devil told her
to kill her son, Yates told authorities Satan was inside of her and
she was trying to save her children.
'The most common part of post-natal psychosis is
the delusional thinking,' said Pesikoff. 'Often but not always, it
encompasses some type of religious thought.'
The risk of developing post-natal psychosis is 50
per cent or higher for women with schizophrenia who are not taking
medication, said Lucy Puryear, another psychiatrist who was involved
in the Yates case.
'It's usually really severe,' said Puryear, who
wrote the book, 'Understanding Your Moods When You're Expecting.'
'The scary thing is that the delusions are usually
always about the baby,' she said. 'In all of the (high profile) cases,
the thinking involves the babies: The mother had to kill the baby to
protect it, or God has spoken to the mother and there is a mission to
kill the baby or sometimes the baby is the devil who needs to be
gotten rid of to save the world,' she said.
She worked until about two weeks before she gave
birth. Acquaintances described Sanchez and her mother as devout
Jehovah's Witnesses.'They would come up to our door every so often,
but I told them I was Catholic, so they left,' said Elaine Calchin.
Buchholz's mother, Kathleen, said she had no idea
that Sanchez had been diagnosed with the same mental illness her son
She thought that baby Scotty was the best thing
that could have happened to the troubled couple. She is not sure what
should happen to the baby's mother.
'I have mixed emotions,' she said. 'She needs to
stay under psychiatric care. I love her. She was like a daughter. I
don't want her out at this point, but that may change.'
Otty Sanchez: 'I Didn't Mean To Do It'
By Paul J. Weber - HuffingtonPost.com
July 29, 2009
A Texas mother accused of decapitating her
3-week-old son screams "I didn't mean to do it. He told me to!" while
her sister pleads for an ambulance to bring help in a desperate
four-minute 911 call released Wednesday.
Otty Sanchez, who police say told them the devil
made her kill and mutilate her only child, cries "I love him" and says
she's stabbed herself in the heart and stomach while her sister tries
calming down the 33-year-old mother.
At one point during the frantic call, Priscilla
Garcia tries reassuring her sister that she is alive. "Otty, this time
I told you to come to me," Garcia says.
"I tried, but you told me that you died," Sanchez
"I'm not dead, Otty," Garcia says. "I'm standing
right here talking to you."
Sanchez, 33, is charged with capital murder in the
slaying of Scott Wesley Buchholz-Sanchez, who authorities found
decapitated and grossly mutilated in a bedroom of her sister's house
early Sunday. Police say Sanchez chewed off three of her infant's toes
and ate parts of the brain. She used a knife and two swords in the
attack, according to police.
Garcia tells the dispatcher that her sister has
stabbed her child and that blood is all over the bed.
"She's gone crazy last night. She was hearing
voices," Garcia says. "She kept bringing me the baby. And finally she
calmed down and I took her back the baby. And now I just woke up to
She continues, "The baby is dead. The baby's dead.
Please, somebody come."
During the call, the dispatcher instructs Garcia
not to touch the baby or anything in the area. The call ends with the
dispatcher saying help is on the way.
Sanchez, who had been hospitalized after the
killing, was being held on $1 million bond at the Bexar County jail.
It was not immediately clear Wednesday whether she had an attorney.
Scott W. Buchholz, the infant's father, said
Sanchez suffered from postpartum depression and that she told him she
was schizophrenic a week before the slaying. Buchholz, who said he
also is schizophrenic, said he wants her to receive the death penalty.
A family member has said Sanchez had been
undergoing psychiatric treatment and that a hospital called looking
for her several months ago. Gloria Sanchez, the mother's aunt, said
her niece had been "in and out of a psychiatric ward."
In May 2008, Otty Sanchez's mother, Manuela
Sanchez, called police after her daughter didn't return from a trip to
Austin, saying she was concerned about her daughter's safety. Manuela
Sanchez told police she suspected her daughter was into drugs and
specifically told police she wasn't suffering from any mental issues.
Buchholz last saw Sanchez and his son the day
before the killing. He said Sanchez had moved in with her parents a
week earlier, leaving him July 20 after being briefly hospitalized for
depression but released that same day.
Sanchez brought "Baby Scotty" over to see his
father the day before the slaying, and Buchholz said she became irate
when he asked for copies of the birth certificate and other documents,
then left in a huff with the baby.
Priscilla Garcia called 911 before 5 a.m. the next
morning. Police say the killing took place in a bedroom and that no
one else was injured.
Call to 911 about Canibalized Baby
The following is the transcript from the chilling
911 call made Sunday, July 26th 2009 around 5am. The sister of Otty
Sanchez phones for help after discovering that Otty has destroyed and
devoured her 3 week old baby.
SAN ANTONIO 911.
I need an ambulance as quickly as possible at
(garbled, as line is disconnected and re-dialed). Oh, my God!
-SAN ANTONIO FIRE AND EMS. HOW CAN WE HELP YOU?
I need an ambulance at **** Wayside Drive as soon
-AT **** WAYSIDE?
-IS THAT A HOUSE OR AN APARTMENT?
It's a house. It's an emergency. (garbled. In the
background you can almost hear someone saying "I can't believe it.")
-AND WHAT'S GOING ON? WHAT'S THE EMERGENCY?
-WHAT'S THE EMERGENCY? WHAT'S GOING ON?
My sister has hurt her child.
-TELL ME WHAT'S GOING ON? DON'T TALK TO THE OTHER
PEOPLE. TALK TO ME.
My sister has has hurt her child has seriously hurt
-HOW DID SHE DO THAT? WHAT'S GOING ON WITH THE
The baby is dead! She has...she has....
-WHAT DID YOU SAY?
The baby is dead! Please come quickly. (garbled)
-HOW OLD IS THE BABY?
The baby is three weeks, not even three weeks old.
-THREE WEEKS OLD?
Not even three weeks old. Please!
-WHAT DID SHE DO TO HIM?
She stabbed him. There's blood all over the bed.
There's... I don't know. Please...
-ALRIGHT, MA'AM. STAY ON THE LINE WITH ME. I'M
GOING TO CONNECT YOU UP TO THE POLICE, OKAY? STAY ON THE LINE.
-(F) EMS, I'M HERE.
-(M) ALRIGHT, GO AHEAD.
-(F) MA'AM, WHAT IS YOUR NAME?
My name is Priscilla Garcia.
-WHERE'S YOUR SISTER AT?
She's just sitting on the couch. I'm sorry.
-PRISCILLA, WHERE'S YOUR SISTER AT?
She's just sitting on the couch. She's just gone
crazy last night. She's hearing voices, she kept bringing me the baby,
and finally she calmed down, so I took her back the baby, and now I
just woke up to hear screaming.
-HOW OLD IS THE BABY?
Not even three weeks old! He, he, he...the baby's
dead! The baby's dead! Please! Somebody come!
-OK, THEY'RE ON THEIR WAY TO YOU, OKAY?
Oh, I need the keys so I can open the front door.
Oh, my God!
-(M) DO NOT TOUCH THE BABY. DON'T DISTURB ANYTHING
IN THE AREA THERE, OKAY?
My mom, my mom was holding the baby. My mom was
holding the baby. (garbled...)
-ALRIGHT. ALRIGHT MA'AM. EVERYBODY IS ON THE WAY TO
HELP YOU, OKAY?
I need to find the keys to open the front door.
(Dog barking.) Gah. (Screaming in the background.) No. No, Otty,
nobody's dead. It's okay, baby. Just stay right there.
-(F) IS THAT YOUR SISTER?
(Priscilla) Yes. (Dog barking and garbled voices in
the background.) Oh, I can't believe it.
(Otty garbled) ... I stabbed myself in the stomach.
(Priscilla) You stabbed yourself?
(Priscilla) Oh, my God, I can't believe it.
(Otty) I stabbed my neck and face.
(Priscilla) Otty, this time I told you to come to
(Otty) (garbled) I tried but he told me that you
died. (garbled) [OR] "I tried but you were telling me that you died
..(inaudible) you killed your kids and you were dead"
(Priscilla) I'm not dead, Otty. I'm standing right
here talking to you.
-WHERE DID SHE STAB HERSELF?
-(Priscilla) In the heart and in the stomach. She
says... (garbled) I see a stab wound in her heart, yes.
Yes. I'm looking at her now, yes.
-ALRIGHT, THEY ARE ON THEIR WAY, OKAY?
-(Priscilla) I love my daughter. Oh, my God!
(background Otty ) I loved him. (garbled) I loved
(Priscilla) Momma, calm down!
(Otty) I didn't mean to do it. He told me to. Oh,
(Priscilla) Mom, I'm on the phone with EMS right
now. I can't call him right now.
-I'M GOING TO GO AHEAD AND LET YOU GO, OKAY?
THEY'RE ON THEIR WAY.
Alright, bye bye.
Otty Sanchez, Woman Accused Of Killing Newborn,
Ate Brain: Police
By Paul J. Weber - HuffingtonPost.com
July 27, 2009
SAN ANTONIO — The scene was so gruesome
investigators could barely speak: A 3 1/2-week-old boy lay dismembered
in the bedroom of a single-story house, three of his tiny toes chewed
off, his face torn away, his head severed and his brains ripped out.
"At this particular scene you could have heard a
pin drop," San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said Monday. "No
one was speaking. It was about as somber as it could have been."
Officers called to the home early Sunday found the
boy's mother, Otty Sanchez, sitting on the couch with a self-inflicted
wound to her chest and her throat partially slashed, screaming "I
killed my baby! I killed my baby!" police said. She told officers the
devil made her do it, police said.
Sanchez, 33, apparently ate the child's brain and
some other body parts before stabbing herself, McManus said.
"It's too heinous for me to describe it any
further," McManus told reporters.
Sanchez is charged with capital murder in the death
of her son, Scott Wesley Buccholtz-Sanchez. She was being treated
Monday at a hospital, and was being held on $1 million bail.
The slaying occurred a week after the child's
father moved out, McManus said. Otty Sanchez's sister and her sister's
two children, ages 5 and 7, were in the house, but none were harmed.
Police said Sanchez did not have an attorney, and
they declined to identify family members.
No one answered the door Monday at Sanchez's home,
where the blinds were shut. A hopscotch pattern and red hearts were
drawn on the walk leading up to the house.
Sanchez's aunt, Gloria Sanchez, said her niece had
been "in and out" of a psychiatric ward but did not say where she was
treated or why. She said a hospital called several months ago to check
up on her.
"Otty didn't mean to do that. She was not in her
right mind," a sobbing Gloria Sanchez told The Associated Press on
Monday by phone. She said her family was devastated.
Investigators are looking into Sanchez's mental
health history to see if there was anything "significant," and whether
postpartum difficulties could have factored into the attack, McManus
Postpartum depression and psychosis have been cited
as contributing factors in several other cases in Texas in recent
years in which mothers killed their children.
Andrea Yates drowned her five children in her
Houston-area home 2001, saying she believed Satan was inside her and
trying to save them from hell. Her attorneys said she had been
suffering from severe postpartum psychosis, and a jury found Yates not
guilty by reason of insanity in 2006.
In 2004, Dena Schlosser killed her 10-month-old in
her Plano home by slicing off the baby's arms. She was found not
guilty of reason by insanity, after testifying that she killed the
baby because she wanted to give her to God.
Sanchez's neighbors expressed sorrow and horror
Monday at the grisly killing.
Neighbor Luis Yanez, 23, said his kids went to
school with one of the small children who lived at the house. He said
he often saw a woman playing outside with the children but didn't know
whether it was Otty.
"Why would you do that to your baby?" said Yanez, a
tire technician. "It brings chills to you. They can't defend
Allen Taylor, another neighbor, said "once she gets
back in her right mind, she's going to be devastated."
Associated Press researcher Susan James in New York
and writer Angela K. Brown in Fort Worth contributed to this report.
Police: Mother says devil made her kill baby
3 1/2 week-old infant found stabbed and decapitated
in Texas home
July 26, 2009
said they found a 3 1/2-week-old infant stabbed and decapitated in a
Texas home on Sunday and his mother screaming that she killed her son
after the devil told her to do it.
Otty Sanchez, 33,
of San Antonio, was taken to a local hospital in critical condition
with self-inflicted stab wounds to her chest and stomach, said San
Antonio police spokesman Joe Rios. Investigators took a sword, a
machete and a kitchen knife from the home.
found two children unharmed at the home, though it wasn't immediately
clear where they were taken.
Sanchez will be
charged with capital murder, Rios said. Police said they didn't know
whether she had an attorney. A spokeswoman at University Hospital in
San Antonio said she couldn't release information on Sanchez's
condition, but Sgt. Wes McCourt said her wounds didn't appear to be
Rios said Sanchez
was sitting on the couch "screaming that she killed her baby," who
police identified as Scott Wesley Buchholtz-Sanchez, when police were
called to the home around 5 a.m. Sunday.
that someone or something told her to do it, she was hearing voices.
So that leads us to believe that she was experiencing some type of
mental crisis," Rios said. "The baby had obviously been decapitated."
McCourt said she
told investigators that the devil told her to kill her son.
The infant's body
was found mutilated in a bedroom. He likely died earlier Sunday
morning, police said.
A woman who
answered the phone Sunday at the Bexar County Medical Examiner's
office said she couldn't release information about the baby's cause of