HOUSTON (AP) - A Houston-area mother charged in the fatal stabbing of her 4-year-old daughter "doesn't seem well" and is being examined for mental health issues, her attorney said Tuesday.
Laquita Lewis, 34, was arraigned on a capital murder charge for the Sunday slaying of her daughter, Fredricka Allen.
"If the facts prove out to what (the district attorney) is saying, she's probably got some mental problems," lawyer Philip Scardino said after Lewis' brief court appearance. Harris County jailers may have to place Lewis on suicide watch, he said.
Lewis, wearing leg chains and handcuffed to a chain around her waist, told state District Judge Maria Jackson only that she understood the charge against her and her rights. Jackson denied bond and scheduled another court appearance for Aug. 2.
Authorities said Lewis texted family members Sunday from a hospital after she was involved in a traffic accident, telling them she'd hurt her child.
Harris County prosecutors said when the child's father, who left their apartment last week after the couple had argued, asked Lewis to elaborate, she said she had stabbed the child in the chest. Relatives contacted the sheriff's office, and deputies who went to Lewis' apartment found the girl's body. Prosecutors said they also found two knives in the bedroom where the child was discovered.
"The system totally breaks down when the person that's supposed to love you is the one hurting you," Josh Phanco, the chief prosecutor in Jackson's court, said. "And that's what you have in this case. And that's what makes it so heinous. ... And those are the type of people that need to pay the most."
With the victim in the case under the age of 10, conviction on the capital murder charge in Texas could carry the death penalty. A decision on that had not yet been made, Phanco said.
Court records show Lewis pleaded guilty in February to a misdemeanor charge of making a terroristic threat, specifically a threat last November to kill her 16-year-old son, one of her four children. She could have received a year in jail but under the plea agreement was placed on 15 months' deferred adjudication.