1969 (age 47–48)
|Alma mater||Marist College|
Dena Laettner Schlosser (born 1969) is a Plano, Texas woman who, on November 22, 2004, used a knife to amputate the arms of her eleven-month-old daughter, Margaret, who died as a result. Plano police responded to a 9-1-1 call made by concerned workers at a local day care center who had spoken to her earlier that day. The 9-1-1 operator testified that she confessed to her and that the gospel song, "He Touched Me" played in the background. When police arrived, they saw her calmly sitting down, covered in blood, holding the knife, and singing Christian hymns.
Hours after her arrest, police heard her repeatedly chanting, "Thank you Jesus, thank you Lord."
At the age of eight, Dena Laettner was diagnosed with hydrocephalus. She had eight surgeries to implant shunts into her brain, heart and abdomen before she was 13 years old. Her schoolmates made fun of her shaved head. She graduated from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York with a bachelor's degree in psychology.
She met her husband, John, when they were both students at Marist. She graduated from Marist, but her husband John did not. Eventually they moved to Texas, where John would not allow her to work.
The day after Margaret was born, Schlosser attempted suicide, was hospitalized in a psychiatric ward, and diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychotic features. She had been investigated earlier that year by the Texas Child Protective Services (CPS) after she was hospitalized for a psychotic episode. CPS ordered that she could not be alone with her children. Her sister-in-law came to live with them until CPS lifted the order. She came to believe that Margaret was destined to marry Doyle Davidson, a veterinarian who had become the family's pastor. The day before she attacked Margaret, Schlosser told her husband that she wanted to give her to Davidson. Later that day, according to a confidential CPS report, he spanked her with a wooden spoon in front of their children. She fatally injured Margaret, while her other two daughters were not harmed.
Psychologist David Self testified that Schlosser told him about a disturbing news story she had seen. The news story concerned a boy who was mauled by a lion and she interpreted it as a sign of the coming apocalypse. She said that she heard God commanding her to remove Margaret's arms and then her own. The attack was later described as "religious frenzy". Self determined that she suffered from postpartum psychosis. She was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was committed to the North Texas State Hospital and ordered to stay there until she is deemed to no longer be a threat to herself or others. There, she was a roommate of Andrea Yates a Texas woman who had drowned her five children in a bathtub.
During the trial, much attention was drawn to Schlosser and her husband attending Water of Life Church, a charismatic church pastored by Davidson. She had been taking antipsychotic drugs for several years prior to Margaret's death. Davidson thought that mental illness was demonic and this belief partly led Schlosser's husband to not buy her medication regularly. Under oath, Davidson testified that in his view, all mental illness is demonic at bottom. Due to viewer outcry after the trial, Davidson's television ministry was canceled everywhere outside the Metroplex.
After Schlosser's arrest, her children were taken by CPS and kept in foster care. Her husband underwent a psychological evaluation, where he was diagnosed with "narcissistic personality traits." The psychological report also stated that he did not do enough to protect his daughters from his mentally ill wife. CPS said they would only allow him to regain custody of them under the condition that his sister live with the family, and he was required to complete psychotherapy and parenting classes. He obliged and got them back in his home. He subsequently filed for divorce. As part of the divorce settlement, Dena was prohibited from ever having contact with him or their daughters again.
On November 6, 2008, it was announced that Schlosser would shortly be released into outpatient care. The order required her to see a psychiatrist once a week, take medication, be on physician-approved birth control, and not have any unsupervised contact with children.
In April 2010, it was reported that Schlosser was recommitted after firefighters from Richardson saw her walking down the street at 2 am. Her attorney, David Haynes, said that he felt the judge made the correct decision.
Schlosser was later released to outpatient status. She stayed out of the public eye until 2012, when WFAA-TV in Dallas reported that she was working under her maiden name, Laettner, at a Walmart in Terrell. Within hours of this news report, they fired her.
In the media
Schlosser is cited by atheist writer/director Brian Flemming, who was raised in a fundamentalist Christian home, as one of a series of people who committed and or incited others to commit crimes under the pretext of them being divinely inspired. Her caption reads, "Devout Christian; Cut her baby's arms off, for God". Charles Manson, Pat Robertson, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins (the authors of the Left Behind series of books), and the victims of the Branch Davidian siege in Waco, Texas (described as "86 crispy fans of similar apocalyptic literature") are also shown.
- "Mother Says God Told Her to Cut Baby". The Washington Post. 2006-02-21. Retrieved 2007-03-19.
- Velez-Mitchell, Jane (2007). Secrets Can Be Murder: What America’s Most Sensational Crimes Tell Us About Ourselves. New York City: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0743299361.
- Glenna Whitley (2006-05-18). "The Devil and Doyle Davidson". Dallas Observer. Retrieved 2013-12-01.
- MSNBC News (2004-11-23). "Mother confesses to severing baby's arms". Retrieved 2007-03-19.
- "Psychologist says Schlosser didn't do enough to protect slain daughter". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. 2005-02-11. Retrieved 2013-12-01.
- "Dena Schlosser Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity". OTB News. 2006-04-08. Archived from the original on 2007-12-09. Retrieved 2007-03-19.
- "Schlosser case ends with insanity ruling". Dallas News. 2007-04-07. Retrieved 2009-08-05.
- "Schlosser and Yates find solace in friendship". Dallas Morning News. 2006-04-08. Archived from the original on 2008-12-11. Retrieved 2007-03-19.
- Whitley, Galena. The Devil and Doyle Davidson, Dallas Observer, 2006-05-18.
- Wilonsky, Robert. Whatever You Do, Don't Sip the Water of Life. It's Really Crazy Juice, Dallas Observer, 2008-05-20.
- "Dena Schlosser, Plano mom who cut off baby's arms, moving to outpatient care". Dallas Morning News. 2008-11-08. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
- Mom Who Cut Off Baby's Arms Back in Hospital NBC Dallas-Fort Worth
- Shipp, Brett; Woodard, Teresa. Mother who killed her child found working in area Walmart. WFAA-TV, 2012-08-06.
- Brian Flemming. The God Who Wasn't There (DVD). Beyond Belief Media.