One of two doctors ordered by the court to bring a definitive picture of murder suspect Kristina Gaime's mental health to a hearing today told investigators this week he continues to find her competent for trial after examining her three times.
Dr. Michael Maher also testified that Gaime made incriminating statements to him, despite his warnings that prosecutors and a judge would see his reports, but he left some of those statements out of his reports.
Maher, in his Tuesday deposition, testified that Gaime is depressed in jail but lucid. He said in his latest exam of her, on Feb. 7, Gaime maintained she had no memory of the April 1999 incident in which she is accused of murdering one son and trying to kill another.
But the Land O'Lakes woman told a different story in 1999 and 2001 exams, Maher testified.
In 1999, Gaime said she recalled killing her son, Maher said. But he never put it in his report.
Maher did not explain why he left that out.
Authorities say Gaime, 38, drugged sons Adam, then 8, and Mathew Rotell, 6, with morphine late April 11 or early April 12, 1999, after a lengthy custody fight with their father. According to investigators, she loaded the drugged boys into the family minivan, directed the van's exhaust into the passenger cabin, and got inside with them.
Her parents found her and Adam groggy inside the home on the morning of April 12, 1999. Mathew was inside the van, dead.
Gaime was charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder. She has been held at a Pasco County jail without bail since.
Maher said in 1999 she appeared to confess.
"She told me the first time I saw her that she remembered killing her son and that she knew that she did that," Maher said. "She couldn't give me a clear moment-by-moment chronologically definite description of events, but she told me that she knew that she did that and she wanted to talk to me about it."
The doctor said that in 2001, Gaime was less clear about her involvement. He quoted her as saying, "If I did this, it was to protect the children."
"She wanted me to understand that she had to protect her children and that this was the only way to protect her children," Maher said at the deposition Tuesday with prosecutor Phil Van Allen and defense attorneys Robert Nutter and Angelo Ferlita.
Maher said Gaime, despite acknowledging that there is substantial evidence against her, insisted in February that her religious faith would see her through and she would not be convicted.
Gaime has pleaded not guilty. In 2000 her attorneys notified the court they might argue at trial that she was insane at the time because of "severe mental and emotional defects."
Maher said Tuesday he still finds her competent.
"Ms. Gaime made it clear to me that people wouldn't understand that she had to take extreme measures to protect her children, but that she did, and that she had no choice under the circumstance," Maher said.
"And it was because she made that clear to me, I reached the conclusion that she understood what she was doing; she understood that she was taking action to kill her children and that she knew at the time that other people would recognize that as wrong. They wouldn't accept that it was justified," Maher said.
Circuit Judge Wayne Cobb will consider another doctor's findings in determining if Gaime should go to trial. Dr. Jamie Barron has submitted a sealed report for today's hearing. Other doctors have examined her. In October, Dr. Walter Afield reported to the court that Gaime was not competent.
Gaime's attorneys are also scheduled to argue today that much of the evidence detectives seized from Gaime's home after her son's death was obtained illegally and should be thrown out.