TAMPA — She was the last one sitting on the courtroom bench. Occasionally she hung her head. Sometimes she glanced across the room, at her father and stepmother, before pulling her gaze back to the stand. When finally called to testify, she mostly said "yes."
Yes, she had been forthright with the doctors. Yes, she understood what the attorney had said. Yes, she knew she was leaving to receive psychiatric treatment.
On Tuesday, prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed: Talae Thomas, 32 of Plant City, was insane when she drowned her 5-week-old son, Chase James Urijah Harrison, because she believed he was the devil.
Circuit Judge Chet A. Tharpe deemed her not guilty of first-degree murder because of insanity. She now will report to a state hospital instead of prison.
Authorities arrested Thomas, then 30, in November 2012. Plant City police had found her in the road, saying she killed her baby and wanted to be taken to a hospital. Officers found the baby dead inside her home.
According to an affidavit filed in court at the time, Thomas told a detective: "My baby died five weeks ago in the hospital. I brought the devil home; mine died in the hospital after they did CPR on him. The baby started talking to me and I knew he was the devil. He was the devil, so I killed him. I drowned the devil that was in my baby."
Defense attorney Charles Traina said he had communicated regularly during the case with Jennifer Johnson, a state prosecutor. They agreed to a nonjury trial. Thomas was evaluated by three medical experts, Traina said, all of whom concluded that she was competent for Tuesday's hearing but insane at the time of the killing.
"She is found not guilty by reason of insanity," Tharpe agreed.
Seven people gathered in the courtroom Tuesday morning. Her father and stepmother were among the crowd. They sat in the back, their faces long and somber. Her father clutched a crumpled napkin; her stepmother slumped on his shoulder.
After the decision, they declined to comment.
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