By Deborah Quinn Hensel
HOUSTON (Reuters) - The nurse accused of fatally shooting a mother leaving a Texas pediatric clinic and abducting her newborn son appeared in court on Thursday to hear the charges against her.
Verna McClain, 30, who was denied bail on Wednesday, appeared before state district Judge Fred Edwards in Conroe, Texas, according to her lawyer, E. Tay Bond. She has been charged with the murder of Kala Golden, 28.
McClain plans to plead not guilty, Bond said after the court appearance. If convicted, she could face the death penalty. Bond said capital murder is "a high burden for the state to try to hurdle" because McClain has no prior criminal record. A bond hearing has been set for Monday.
Bond, a court-appointed attorney for McClain who said he first met her on Wednesday evening, said he intends to pursue an evaluation of her mental state. He said she was visibly upset and mumbling when he met her and that by the next day her mental state appeared to have deteriorated.
Montgomery County Sheriff's Lieutenant Dan Norris has said that when Golden walked out of the Northwoods Pediatric Center north of Houston on Tuesday, she was confronted by a woman in a blue Lexus parked next to her pickup truck. After "a verbal altercation," five bullets were fired, he said.
Witnesses said the young mother was shot in the chest with at least three slugs, but she yelled "my baby, my baby!" and attempted to retrieve three-day-old Keegan Schuchardt from McClain's blue Lexus as she drove away.
Police said McClain had told her fiancé she had been pregnant, and took the abducted child to show him, telling him it was theirs. Both McClain and her fiancé are African American, and Keegan Schuchardt is white.
McClain was arrested late on Tuesday after officials in The Woodlands, north of Houston, tracked the Lexus to an apartment there. Officials said the baby was found in good condition at McClain's sister's home and was returned to a family member.
(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Todd Eastham)