PICKENS, S.C. (AP) — A woman who shot her young daughter and son as they slept suffered from bipolar disorder and paranoia so intense that she had been hospitalized for delusions and her doctor had warned her husband to lock up the guns, her lawyer said.
Suzanna Brown Simpson belongs in a mental hospital, not prison, public defender John Mauldin told a jury in Pickens County, South Carolina as her murder trial began.
Prosecutors are not pursuing the death penalty, and are aiming for a lengthy prison sentence instead.
The Greenville News is covering her trial. The paper reports (http://grnol.co/28LBxfu) that a deputy was nearly in tears as he testified Monday about finding the children slain in their beds.
Deputy Tommy Camp said he was called to the scene after Simpson intentionally crashed her truck into a tree, so hard that the roots came out of the ground.
He became emotional as he described the Spider Man items 5-year-old Sawyer's room, where his bloody body was in his bed. He went down the hall and found 7-year-old Carly also dead, from several gunshots, in her "Hello Kitty" room.
Then Camp heard "an awful sound" and found Simpson's husband, Michael, shot and struggling to breathe. He survived, and watched the first day of testimony from a wheelchair.
Neighbors said Simpson was a kind woman who doted on her children. She volunteered at her children's school. But Mauldin said Simpson was so paranoid that she insisted their home in Dacusville was bugged with listening devices, and asked for cameras to be installed.
Her doctor told her husband to please lock up his guns, Mauldin said. The gun safe was open when deputies arrived.
The jury has four options — guilty, guilty but mentally ill, not guilty or not guilty by reason of insanity, prosecutor Walt Wilkins said. Either guilty verdict on the murder charge will send Simpson, 38, to prison for at least 30 years. Not guilty by reason of insanity will likely send her to a mental hospital.
The nurse who treated Simpson after the crash said she confessed to killing her children because, "I didn't want them to live in this awful world." She also said she tried to kill herself, but she loaded the wrong bullets in the gun and the wreck only managed to break her back, John Conway testified.
"It was an insane and senseless act," Mauldin said. "That's what it was."