An Akron mother was hearing voices telling her someone was going to harm her and her 2-year-old daughter.
So she drove her car into Summit Lake, with her daughter inside.
Dee’Andra McGhee, who nearly drowned but was rescued along with her daughter, was scheduled to go on trial for attempted murder Monday morning. Instead, McGhee was declared not guilty by reason of insanity.
Summit County prosecutors agreed to the finding of two defense experts who said McGhee was unable to know right from wrong during the July incident.
“The best setting for Dee’Andra is clearly a mental health facility where she can get treatment,” said Brian Pierce, McGhee’s attorney. “She’s not going to get the help she needs in a jail setting.”
McGhee will undergo an evaluation and will have a commitment hearing at noon May 12 before visiting Judge Patricia Cosgrove, a retired Summit County Common Pleas Court judge.
A finding of not guilty by reason of insanity isn’t a routine occurrence in Summit County or nationwide. Pierce has handled four cases with this outcome during 22 years of criminal defense.
Studies have found that the insanity defense is used in less than 1 percent of felony cases nationally.
Authorities say McGhee, 25, drove her car into Summit Lake about 6 p.m. July 4 in front of bystanders. She panicked and tried to open the door, but it was too late. Two men who saw what happened dove into the lake and rescued McGhee and her daughter.
McGhee didn’t have custody of her daughter at the time. The girl, who was checked at the hospital and then released, is living with her grandmother.
McGhee also was charged with endangering children and criminal damaging. She had waived a jury trial and planned to have Cosgrove decide her case.
Two defense experts found that McGhee suffered from mental health problems that impaired her ability to tell right from wrong at the time of the incident. Prosecutors had one expert who found McGhee was sane when the incident occurred.
Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Felicia Easter, however, told Cosgrove on Monday morning that prosecutors agreed with the reports of the two defense experts.
“After reviewing the case and three separate medical evaluations, we concur with the finding of not guilty by reason of insanity,” Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh said in a prepared statement. “Ms. McGhee needs intensive psychological treatment and we felt this is the best resolution for her, her family and the safety of the community.”
McGhee likely will be committed to a mental health facility, where she could be held for up to 11 years — the amount of time she would have spent in prison if she had been convicted of the charges against her. She will be evaluated every six months to gauge her progress and to determine if she should be moved to a less restrictive environment and eventually freed.
McGhee’s mental health problems began when she was 19. She ultimately was diagnosed with schizophrenia. She has three prior hospitalizations in psychiatric facilities and was deemed incompetent to stand trial on misdemeanor charges in 2013, Pierce said.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmithabj and on Facebook: www.facebook.com/swarsmith.