McCarron "severely depressed" when she killed her daughter, expert testifies
Karen McCarron suffered from psychotic depression and believed she disobeyed suggestions from God before killing her 3-year-old autistic daughter in 2006, a psychiatrist testified Monday.
Joseph Glenmullen testified during the sixth day of McCarron’s murder trial in Tazewell County Circuit Court, saying she was severely depressed at the time she suffocated Katherine "Katie" McCarron with a plastic garbage bag.
Glenmullen, a Harvard Medical School graduate and faculty member with his own practice, was hired by McCarron’s attorneys as a medical expert in his field.
He said McCarron’s statements to police during a videotaped confession showed she was out of touch with reality.
"Karen was severely obsessed with the idea, and she believed it, that she caused her daughter’s autism," Glenmullen said. "Karen was convinced of that."
McCarron believed childhood vaccinations that contained mercury caused the autism, Glenmullen said. McCarron said God was telling her not to give the child the vaccinations but she listened to doctors instead, Glenmullen testified.
"She felt she ignored God’s suggestions," he said.
McCarron is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, one count of obstructing justice and one count of concealment of a homicidal death after telling police, family and friends about suffocating the girl on May 13, 2006, with a plastic bag and then putting her body in bed as if she were asleep.
McCarron told jurors Friday she also attempted to suffocate the girl with a pillow three days before the killing because she hated the girl’s autism.
Her attorneys have entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.
Glenmullen said the videotaped confession shows McCarron is suffering from psychotic depression and attributed her confession to mental illness.
"Her answers are out of touch with reality," he said. "She’s crossed the line into psychosis."
Prosecutors say McCarron was completely aware of her actions and never showed any signs of mental illness and has never been diagnosed with mental illness except by Glenmullen.
McCarron had no delusions or hallucinations and had never been diagnosed with psychosis by any doctors who have treated her before or after the murder, Assistant Tazewell County State’s Attorney Kirk Schoenbein said.
That includes the year she spent in a mental health facility she checked herself into in Springfield, he said.
Schoenbein said McCarron was interviewed by a psychiatrist before she confessed to police on the video and was coherent, had an intact memory and had no thought or perception disorders.
"You’re the only mental health professional in Karen McCarron’s life that’s ever said she’s psychotic," Schoenbein said.
Schoenbein also questioned Glenmullen’s role as a doctor who testifies professionally.
Glenmullen said he has been paid $35,000 of a $50,000 retainer to testify on McCarron’s behalf and said he charges $500 an hour to consult in court cases.
Schoenbein asked Glenmullen if he truly believes McCarron, a former pathologist, is insane.
"I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t," he said.
The defense rested its case Monday and the prosecution began calling rebuttal witnesses regarding McCarron’s mental health before and after the killing.
McCarron’s former co-workers, family and friends have all said she displayed no characteristics of mental illness before killing her daughter and acted normally afterward.
After her arrest, co-workers at Peoria Tazewell Pathology Group examined her work during the years leading up to the killing to check for mistakes a mental illness may have caused. Her former co-workers testified that they found none.
Prosecutors are expected to call their own medical expert when the trial resumes at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Closing statements could be heard by Wednesday and the jury could begin deliberating.
Kevin Sampier can be reached at (309) 346-5300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.