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Ohio woman pleads guilty to murder, decapitating her infant daughter

Posted: 9:04 AM, Feb 23, 2017
Updated: 2017-02-23 21:02:11Z

CINCINNATI -- Deasia Watkins pleaded guilty to murder Thursday in the decapitation death of her infant daughter.

Police said Watkins, now 22, stabbed her 3-month-old daughter Janiyah to death in March 2015. She was charged with aggravated murder; she faces 15 years to life in prison.

IN-DEPTH:  Who is Deasia Watkins? Documents reveal troubled childhood

According to Hamilton County (Ohio) Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco's report, the infant sustained multiple stab wounds to the right side of her face and head, and her “head was severed from her body." When asked how many stab wounds Janiyah sustained, Sammarco said she'd "lost count."

Watkins rejected a plea deal in Nov. 2016, opting for a trial. She was pursuing an insanity plea.

When the trial began April 2015, a judge ordered that Watkins undergo treatment and postponed her next court date six months. She was found competent to stand trial in Sept. 2015.

During multiple court appearances, Watkins was seen exhibiting blank stares, with little discernible reaction to her surroundings. Watkins’ attorney argued that she has no idea what’s going on around her.

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When Janiyah was born, Watkins was placed on a 72-hour psychiatric hold at Deaconess Hospital. Court records documenting Janiyah's case indicate it was around this time when Watkins was diagnosed with post-partum psychosis, a condition characterized by the onset of psychotic behavior following childbirth.

Doctors prescribed Watkins an antipsychotic medication called Risperdal as treatment, but it was unclear whether she was actually taking it.

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Cincinnati police said officers responded to the home of Watkins' aunt and found the 3-month-old dead inside. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said the baby's body was found on the kitchen counter by a 5-year-old relative who was dropped off to wait for his bus to school. The knife used on the baby was found placed in the dead baby's hand.

"This is one of the most disturbing cases I've ever seen in my life," the prosecutor said.

Court records show the March incident wasn't the first time authorities visited Watkins. In fact, Janiyah was removed from Watkins' care due to neglect.

According to a Hamilton County Juvenile Court complaint, police were called to Watkins' apartment about three months before her daughter's death after complaints of screaming.

When officers arrived, they said Watkins was high on marijuana and " speaking in tongues, " according to a police report. Officers said they had to forcefully remove the infant from Watkins' arms because she refused to let go.

After that, Janiyah was placed in the custody of Job & Family Services after a complaint filed by the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office.

Job & Family Services later placed the child with Watkins' aunt, who permitted Watkins to come and live with her one week prior to the infant's death, Deters said.

Deters said Job & Family Services workers "did their job." Social workers visited the home three days before Janiyah was killed.

"Bottom line: No one has the resources to monitor a mother and a neglected child 24-seven," Deters said.

COLUMN: 3-month old's tragic death has this mom wondering, 'who was there for the child?'

Watkins' attorney pursued a "not guilty by reason of insanity" plea, basing the plea on her post-partum psychosis diagnosis.

“Forensics (indicates) Watkins does not understand the nature of the charges against her and cannot yet aid in her own defense because of a severe mental illness,” her attorney Norman Aubin said in court. “…If she is restored to competency, then we can go forward with a not guilty by reason of insanity (plea).”

Watkins was close to accepting a plea deal in Nov. 2016, but rejected it at the last moment.

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