Mother to pursue mental health defense in death of child

AP News
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Posted: Sep 14, 2015 2:12 PM

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A mother accused of killing her 20-month-old son by pushing him off a bridge into an eastern Pennsylvania river before jumping in herself will pursue an insanity or mental health defense at trial, according to court documents.

Johnesha Perry, 20, is charged with criminal homicide and child endangerment in the May death of Zymeir Perry. Lehigh County prosecutors say they plan to seek the death penalty if she is convicted of first-degree murder.

Defense attorneys said in a recent motion that their client has a long history of mental illness, The (Allentown) Morning Call (http://bit.ly/1Ka4N6A ) reported. Public defender Kimberly Makoul said Perry has had "severe and substantial mental infirmities" — including paranoid schizophrenia and delusional disorder — since she was a teenager.

Authorities say Perry gave Zymeir a kiss before pushing him off the Hamilton Street Bridge in Allentown into the Lehigh River 50 feet below on May 3. She then jumped but managed to reach shore with a broken arm. The child was pulled out of the water about 700 yards downstream but died six days later.

Makoul wrote that lawyers are still investigating Perry's mental condition and plan to call a psychologist as an expert witness.

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Information from: The Morning Call, http://www.mcall.com