Jury hears tape of mother saying she killed 2-year-old

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BANGOR — Leanna Norris repeatedly told medical staff at Eastern Maine Medical Center and an EMT while en route to the hospital that she had killed her nearly 2½ -year-old daughter and wanted to die, according to an audio recording played Tuesday, the second day of her jury-waived murder trial at the Penobscot Judicial Center.

“Why doesn’t somebody just kill me?” Norris, 25, of Auburn, formerly of Stetson, said on the audio recording during the ambulance ride. “I don’t want to be alive.”

Norris said on the recording, made by Maine State Police Trooper Matthew Grant in the early morning hours of June 24, 2013, that she gave Loh Melody Grenda three times the normal dose of an antihistamine, put duct tape over her mouth and nose, then smothered her with a blanket. The mother then took the rest of the antihistamine and swallowed 200 Advil pills.

“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.”

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

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

Defense attorney Martha Harris of Bangor said Monday in her opening statement 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 child’s death.

Assistant Attorney General Deb Cashman, who is prosecuting the case, told Superior Court Justice Ann Murray that the evidence would prove Norris acted intentionally and knew right from wrong when she killed the child.

Grant testified Tuesday that he was assigned by his supervisor to ride in the ambulance from the farm where Norris’ parents lived on Mount Pleasant Road in Stetson to EMMC, where Norris was taken to be evaluated. The trooper, who was not in uniform, said that he turned on the small digital recorder he carried in the breast pocket of his shirt when he got into the ambulance.

Although Norris sounded upset and was crying on the recording, she also was able to answer questions about her medical history and what had happened the day before, including that she had smothered her daughter about 9 p.m. June 23, 2013, while her car was parked at a Stetson cemetery.

The 911 call that Norris’ father, Steven W. Norris, 50, of Stetson made when his daughter arrived at their home with her dead daughter in the front seat also was played Tuesday. A crying woman could be heard in the background, but her words were not audible in the courtroom when the recording was played. Norris said that was Leanna Norris crying and begging to die.

Dr. Margaret Greenwald, the state’s retired chief medical examiner, testified Tuesday that the child died of asphyxiation. She also said the toddler’s blood contained a toxic level of the antihistamine Benadryl.

Maine State Police Detective Jay Peary also testified Tuesday morning.

He said he was responsible for removing the child’s body, which was wrapped in a blanket, from the front seat of the car, and later processed evidence found in the vehicle.

He said that items found in the white Chevy Lumina included: empty bottles of Advil and a Rite Aid version of Benadryl; a roll of duct tape; a journal; a handwritten note dated June 23, 2013; a diaper bag and a “duct tape mask.”

The detective did not testify about what was written on the note.

Peary said that he cataloged the items as evidence and sent some to the Maine State Police Crime Laboratory for testing.

Testimony from other medical personnel who treated Norris is expected on Wednesday. Dr. Ann LeBlanc, director of the state forensic service, most likely will testify about her examination of Norris on Thursday.

The trial is scheduled to last until Friday but could go into 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 midcoast hospital.

To reach a suicide prevention hot line, call 888-568-1112 or 800-273-TALK (8255), or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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