Mother pleads guilty, mentally ill in death
By STEVE GARBACZ
Daily Journal staff writer
First Posted: September 21, 2014 - 9:40 pm
Last Updated: September 21, 2014 - 9:40 pm
Two years after drowning her son in the bathtub of her Trafalgar apartment, a mother pleaded guilty and will be sent to prison.
Amanda Smith, 35, pleaded guilty but mentally ill to murder and attempted murder charges and was sentenced to 55 years in prison.
She spent about 18 months in a state mental health facility after the death of her 3-year-old son, Jacob Smith. She was found competent to stand trial in April, and her attorneys had been preparing for a criminal trial to begin this month. With her plea agreement, the case will not go to trial.
Smith will have her first opportunity for parole after she serves half her sentence, if she has good behavior while in prison, Johnson County Prosecutor Brad Cooper said. Parole isn’t guaranteed, so Smith potentially could serve more than 27½ years in prison, he said.
That is a concern for the boy’s father, who thinks she should have been sentenced to life in prison, without the chance for parole.
“I don’t think the sentence is appropriate,” Robert Crim said. “She drowned a baby.”
Amanda Smith was arrested in February 2012 after she called police to her Trafalgar apartment. When police arrived, they found Jacob dead in bed, and Amanda Smith attacked officers with an ax. She told officers she drowned the toddler in the bathtub because her family was turning him against her and she saw nothing good coming out of his life.
“It’s a horrible tragedy. It was her child. She maintains that this was something she was doing at the direction of God and for whatever reason,” Cooper said. “Either way the child is dead and it’s not coming back, and she’s going to prison for a long time. Nobody wins here.”
She was charged with murder and attempted murder and pleaded guilty but mentally ill to both charges. The plea means she will go to prison and receive mental health treatment, although she will serve the sentence like any other inmate.
She had considered a similar agreement last week but said she couldn’t agree to pleading guilty to a crime she didn’t feel responsible for. Smith could have had received 65 to 115 years total if convicted of both charges at trial. That likely would have meant she would have spent the rest of her life in prison.
Her attorneys were not available Friday.
Previously, Amanda Smith’s attorneys had planned an insanity defense before the case was put on hold while she received treatment. When she was deemed able to stand trial in April, her attorneys planned to present an insanity defense and show that she was suffering from her illness at the time of the murder. Two of three doctors who evaluated her said she was insane when she murdered the child, Cooper said.
If she were found not guilty by reason of insanity, Smith would have been committed to a mental health hospital instead of prison and would be released when her treatment was complete, he said.
Cooper said the conviction ensures Smith will continue to get the mental health treatment she needs but also remain incarcerated for a long period for the crime.
Crim said Smith knew right from wrong and knew what she was doing when she killed their child.
He thinks about his son every day and has a picture of his smile and his curly blond hair to remind him of his little boy. Crim previously lived in Bargersville, and when Jacob was killed, he was trying to get a county court to give him custody of his son. He has since moved to Phoenix.
“It will never go away. The pain is always going to be there,” he said.
After his son’s death, Crim and his sister, Margaret Maloney, started a petition on change.org. Their goal is to require courts to research records, such as police reports, about people involved in cases who have a history of mental illness before making decisions, including child visitation arrangements.
Amanda Smith had called police multiple times before Jacob was killed, with reports ranging from people in her attic, her car being tampered with repeatedly and suspicious images she believed she saw on her home security system. Court records showed she had been diagnosed as schizophrenic.
Court officials have said they were not aware of those calls to police; and weeks before Jacob’s death, the court had approved allowing Amanda Smith to have one overnight visit with her son each week. It was during one of those overnight visits that Jacob was killed.
“All we can do is try to keep putting the story out there and never let people forget,” Crim said.