NEW ORLEANS —A mother accused in the deaths of her 3-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter was ruled incompetent to stand trial Thursday by a New Orleans magistrate judge.
Chelsea Thornton, 23, will remain in jail under medical treatment until space becomes available at a state mental hospital in East Feliciana Parish.
Thornton is charged with two counts first-degree murder, facing a possible death sentence if found guilty as charged.
The charges technically will proceed if the district attorney choses to present the case to the grand jury while Thornton is being treated.
Thornton’s attorney, Lionel “Lon” Burns, said Thornton would enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.
“We have reams of medical records that show she has long suffered from mental illness,” Burns said.
Tulane University forensic psychiatrist Dr. James McConville, part of a court-appointed panel tasked with determining Thornton’s competency, testified at a hearing last week that she does not “meet the bar to stand trial.”
She is being treated with once-a-month anti-psychotic shots, meant to curb paranoia and hallucinations.
McConville said she eventually could reach competency through treatment.
The bodies of the children were discovered by their grandparents in October.
In court records, police said Thornton told investigators she shot the boy in the head then drowned him in the bathtub. When she turned to shoot her daughter, the gun failed to fire, the report says. Investigators said she then drowned the girl in the bathtub.
Magistrate Judge Gerard Hansen ordered Thornton to the mental hospital over the objections of prosecutors.