Auburn mother accused of killing child told social worker: ‘I don’t want Loh to have another mother’

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BANGOR — Less than 24 hours after she allegedly smothered her nearly 2 ½-year-old daughter, Leanna Norris told a mental health worker that she decided to kill Loh Melody Grenda after the girl’s father ended their relationship, according to testimony Wednesday at the Penobscot Judicial Center.

“I don’t think I can live without him,” Norris, 25, of Auburn, formerly of Stetson, told a licensed clinical social worker on June 24, 2013. “I don’t want him to be with anyone but me. I don’t want Loh to have another mother.”

Those statements appear to support what Assistant Attorney General Deb Cashman said Monday in her opening statement — that Norris acted intentionally and knew right from wrong when she killed the child to make sure she was not raised by another woman.

Evidence admitted earlier this week indicated that Norris first decided to kill herself, then, to also kill her daughter so that she and her daughter would be together “forever and ever.”

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Norris repeatedly admitted to investigators that on the evening of June 23, 2013, she gave her daughter three times the normal dose of an antihistamine, put duct tape over her mouth and nose, then smothered her with a blanket, according to trial testimony.

The mother then took the rest of the antihistamine and swallowed 200 Advil pills in a botched suicide attempt.

Norris is charged with intentional or knowing murder. She has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

In a recording played Tuesday that was made by Maine State Trooper Matthew Grant on the morning of June 24, 2014, Norris said she tried to kill herself.

“I wanted to die,” Norris said on the audio recording when asked why she took the medicine. “I killed my baby. I didn’t want her to be in the world without me.”

A moment later, she said on the recording: “I didn’t want to leave her alone in this horrible, horrible world.”

Christine Lally-Kendall, who works for Acadia Hospital, a mental health facility in Bangor, testified Wednesday. The social worker said she spent about five hours with Norris on the afternoon of June 24, 2013, in the emergency room of Eastern Maine Medical Center evaluating whether Norris was suicidal and needed to be admitted to a hospital.

Lally-Kendall told Superior Court Justice Ann Murray that when she asked the defendant if she heard voices, Norris replied: “I wish I had because that would be insanity.”

The social worker also said that the defendant told her that Norris’ first plan was to shoot her boyfriend, Michael Grenda, 27, of Auburn, “to put him out of his misery” because he suffered from back pain. She decided to kill her daughter and herself when she could not find the ammunition to the firearm kept in their apartment, Lally-Kendall testified.

Grenda testified Monday that he had ended his relationship with Norris in the early morning hours of June 23, 2013, and told her he would seek full custody of their daughter.

The social worker also said Wednesday that Norris told her that she covered her own mouth and nose with duct tape after she took the pills and antihistamine, but she pulled it off as she struggled to breathe. Norris also said that during that time, she kept bumping up against her daughter’s body, which she did not like, Lally-Kendall testified.

Lally-Kendall told the judge that at no time during her evaluation of Norris did the defendant mention hearing voices or appear to be out of touch with reality.

The social worker said she concluded that Norris was suicidal and suffered from a depressive disorder. In consultation with Dr. Anthony Ng, a psychiatrist at Acadia Hospital, the decision was made to admit Norris. She later was moved to a midcoast hospital, but Lally-Kendall said she did not know why.

An interview with Maine State Police Detective Greg Mitchell recorded before Lally-Kendal began her evaluation was played in court Wednesday afternoon. While it was difficult to hear at times, Norris could be heard crying often. The defendant told Mitchell that she wanted to “hold my baby one last time.” She repeatedly said she was sorry for what she had done and that she did not want to remember killing her child.

The prosecution is expected to rest Thursday morning when the defense will begin calling witnesses. Mental health experts are to take the stand Friday.

Defense attorney Martha Harris of Bangor said in her opening statement Monday that Norris suffered from severe depression, anxiety disorder and a mood disorder when she smothered her daughter. She said that Norris is not criminally responsible for the girl’s death.

Closing arguments most likely will not be presented until next week. The judge is expected to take the case under advisement and deliver her verdict later in the year.

If convicted of murder, Norris faces between 25 years and life in prison. She would be committed to Riverview Psychiatric Hospital in Augusta if Murray finds her not guilty by reason of insanity.

Norris has been held without bail at the Penobscot County Jail since her arrest July 3, 2013, when she was released from a psychiatric ward at a Rockport hospital.

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