On November 22, 2004, Dena Schlosser severed the arms from her 11-month-old baby, Maggie, using a 9-inch kitchen knife. The baby died of blood loss. Dena was deemed innocent by reason of insanity and was sent to a psychiatric hospital. The State of Texas released Dena Schlosser (now using the last name Laettner) from medical care.
The first thing that police officers noted was the sound of gospel music in the Schlosser home. Dena Schlosser calmly sat at her computer table reading her bible.
For the last 3 days and nights she tried to make sense of Matthew 5:30,
“If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from there: For it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”
As Dena sat there humming along with the hymn, a 9-inch kitchen knife projecting out of her shoulder. The verse had finally made sense to her. In the next room officers found Dena’s 11-month-old baby, Maggie, her arms severed completely from its tiny frame.
The police officers who arrested Dena reported she kept saying “praise God, thank you God,” while being read her Miranda rights.
“She had an ashen, gray look. There were no arms and there was a lot of blood,” Plano Police Officer Tilley said.
A medical exam would determine that Maggie had flailed, suffering 50 wounds to her face.
Dena was convinced that a female demon, Jezebel, had had complete control of the child. “I felt I had to,” Dena would tell the judge who would decide her fate.
Disorder an illness has plagued Dena Schlosser since childhood. At age 8 Dena developed a severe case of hydrocephalus, better known as water on the brain, and was hospitalized frequently.
Doctors put implant shunts in her brain, which required frequent surgery. As a child, Dena’s head was often shaved, which invited ridicule and shunning from her peers at school. She turned to her mother for stability, depending on her affection. Her mother “fiercely loved her daughter.”
Despite her childhood setbacks, Dena did well in school and attended Marist College in New York. Here she met John Schlosser, her future husband. Dena graduated with a degree in psychology and the couple started their life in Fort Worth, Texas.
The couple quickly started a family, giving birth to two daughters. However, they struggled financially. John provided little income, as he was often unemployed due to not earning his degree at Marist College. His degree never came, although his family paid for his full tuition.
Although unemployed and struggling to feed his family, John Schlosser turned down employment opportunities for years if they didn’t fit his interest in computer science. One example being a stable and well-paying position at Hitachi’s Dallas office that a close friend had set up for him. John turned down the position because he wanted to be in charge of the IT department, a position he was underqualified for.
Dena also struggled with steady employment. Dena quit her job with Visa because a customer acted rudely towards her. She walked off during her shift at Ameritrade, because a client lied to her. She quit the nursing home, where she met Carolyn Thomas, because she felt offended.
Dena and her husband had two daughters and a baby on the way. The family stressors were piling up, and Dena was feeling completely overwhelmed. The couple struggled financially, Dena was feeling unwanted by her husband, and to top it off, her mother developed Parkinson’s disease.
Dena needed answers.
For Dena, those answers came as a neighbor, which had told the Schlosses about the Water of Life Church ran by an eccentric and controversial preacher named Doyle Davidson.
Doyle Davidson is known for his television evangelism in which he preaches a simple message, if you are experiencing any problem: be it health issues, financial issues, family issues, or even “bad weather”, it is because your body and soul has been hijacked by one of Satan’s demons.
For a woman, that demon is most likely Jezebel, whom in the Christian bible Old Testament was the wife of King Ahab, a wicked, seductive, temptress targeting women and causing problems with childbirth, reproductive complications, and the defiance to submit to their husbands.
Dena finally found the answer she was seeking, even though it wasn’t the one she cared to find.
Jezebel had found Dena. The demon that pastor Doyle harked about had manifested itself in both Dena Schlosser and her baby Maggie.
When the judge asked Dena why she severed her baby’s arms, she simply replied, “because I had to.”
Baby Maggie was born on January 9, 2004. She was a healthy baby, which makes the photos of her all the more heart-wrenching.
The day after Dena gave birth to her beautiful new daughter, she began feeling deeply depressed. And while the mother had experienced postpartum depression before, this was something different.
Dena grabbed a pair of office scissors and sliced her wrist.
Her injuries weren’t serious, and she claimed it was her test to God that he would heal her. One week later she ran down the street screaming, her terrified 5-year-old daughter riding her bicycle behind her trying to catch up with her as she ran.
Doctors would claim that Dena was experiencing a psychotic episode. She spent two days a Green Oaks Psychiatric Hospital and was given Haldol and Ativan. Dena, known that something was not right with her, did not want to leave the hospital. However, John “prayed about it” and he was told by God that Dena was suffering from a simple case of demonic possession.
Nothing a little Doyle Davidson couldn’t fix, right?
A few days pass, and Dena begs to go back to the psychiatric hospital. She knows something is wrong with her mental faculties and recognizes that she needs professional help. John refuses and, after a prayer session, decides his wife doesn’t need medical intervention.
In March 2004, Dena leaves in the wee hours. Doctors found her the next morning, lying on the bathroom floor of an ER. She is screaming and in a state of psychosis. Scared that doctors will tell his wife that she’s got anything more than demon possession, John prays about it and takes her back home.
There is absolutely nothing good that comes out of a tragedy like this. A mother severs off the arms of her 11-month-old daughter is possibly the worst case of mutilation the world has ever seen. It’s horrid to imagine, but can we really blame the mother here?
In the United States, a judge, using the help of a psychiatrist, can deem a killer not responsible for a murder. And most citizens accept this as logical. How could you blame someone for a crime when they had absolutely no control over their own body or mind when they committed it?
When Dena was arrested, they put her on suicide watch. She began banging her head against the wall, refusing her medications. “there is no depression, only God”, and fearing an ongoing ‘end-of-days’ style apocalypse she imagined was occurring outside of her cell walls.
Dena was diagnosed with “bi-polar disorder, severe, with psychotic features” and at first considered too incompetent to stand trial. When Dena and the State were finally ready to conduct a murder trial, it ended in a hung jury, which eventually a judge decided that Dena Schlosser was not guilty by reason of insanity.
Dena has had several committed stays inside mental health facilities. Her case faded to obscurity for a while, at least until 2012, when she was fired from a job at Wal-Mart where she went by a different last name of Laettner.
This is where we lose track of Dena Schlosser. Maybe the mother blames herself. Maybe she doesn’t care about the tragic day when she cut off her daughter’s arms. We just don’t know. Yet.
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