July 27, 2009

Otty Sanchez Sounds Like Andrea Yates All Over Again

There's a tragic story this week about a San Antonio woman who has allegedly killed and mutilated her own baby. If you have a weak stomach, you might want to skip the next paragraph.

Even though Otty Sanchez had been in and out of a mental hospital, she was caring for her three-and-a-half-week-old son and her sister's two children Sunday morning when she "'used a knife...to dismember the child, and ate parts of his body, including his brain, before stabbing herself in the torso and slicing her own throat,' police said Monday." She survived her suicide attempt, and is now in the hospital recovering, charged with capital murder and held on $1 million bond. Police also claimed Sanchez said that the "devil told her to kill her son and that she was hearing voices."

Thankfully, such horrendous incidents are rare, but it sounds a lot like the case of Andrea Yates, the Houston woman who drowned her five children in her bathtub in 2001. I read quite a bit about that case, and it was pretty clear from her history of postpartum psychosis that she should not have had more children after her first psychotic episode, much less have been left alone with her children for any period of time. I would say that Yates' behavior was the very definition of insanity--voices were telling her that Satan was inside of her, and she felt her children would go to hell if she didn't kill them--twisted logic, to be sure, but not anything that a stay in prison would change.

Sanchez' mental condition wasn't specified in the intial reports, although it sounds a lot like schizophrenia and/or postpartum psychosis. Unfortunately, most people are still extremely ignorant about mental illness and somehow imagine that people with sick minds can control their harmful impulses or turn off the voices in their heads. It's kind of like expecting a man with broken legs to stand upright. I don't know what it will take to convince people that this isn't possible without medication and treatment. Although in real life, the hallucinations are auditory, not visual, at least "A Beautiful Mind" tried to portray what it's like to be schizophrenic.

The comments posted below the Stateman's story were of the usual "no trial, just fry her" variety, which prompted me also to comment.

The key portions of this story are "Police said Sanchez told them the devil told her to kill her son and that she was hearing voices" and "Sanchez's aunt, Gloria Sanchez, said her niece had been 'in and out' of a psychiatric ward."

Why is a woman who is seriously mentally ill allowed to care for children? Like in the Yates case, the fault lies with the other adults who let this happen. It's like letting a blind man drive a car. She is obviously "sick," as Hook'em98 says, and needs help, not punishment. Her extreme psychosis and its tragic results are punishment enough. Do you think it's any picnic being schizophrenic and hearing voices telling you to do horrible things and then feeling compelled to do them? I can't imagine a hell worse than that. When will people realize that no one signs up for mental illness?

1 comment:

ArsenicJulep said...

I don't think that religion is usually pertinent to crime reporting, unless a devil-worshiping cult is involved.

I don't know the overall statistics, but it's interesting that so many Jehovah's Witnesses seem to be involved in abusive situations. I don't know if the JW belief system causes adherents to go crazy, or if crazy people are attracted to the religion. But I think that any faith that requires a sort of fanatical discipline will exacerbate those tendencies, which can lead to abuse.

I did know a gay man whose parents were JWs; his mother didn't speak to him, and he had never met his brother's children. Sad, and not very Christian, I didn't think.