The man accused of stabbing and strangling his 18-month-old daughter last year, telling police afterward that God had ordered him to do it, was charged by a grand jury with first-degree murder Thursday, opening the way for a possible death sentence if he is convicted. 

Mark Hambrick, 46, was charged with both murder and second-degree cruelty to a juvenile in connection with the Oct. 17 death of his daughter Amina.

Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Keva Landrum-Johnson set his bail at $1.5 million.

First-degree murder carries a punishment of either death or life imprisonment in Louisiana. District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said he has not decided which penalty to seek.

Family members of the slain girl expressed concern that seeking the death penalty would drag out the legal process.

“Those of us who knew Mark before that horrific morning recognize that he is suffering from a profound mental health crisis,” the relatives said in a statement released through a spokesman. 

“Nothing will ever be able to repair the hole that Amina’s death has left in our lives. It has been extremely difficult to understand this tragedy. ... Instead, we are worried that the specter of a capital case will make our unbearable search for closure even longer.”

Michael Stone, the family spokesman, said the statement was approved by Amina’s mother, her grandmothers, her uncle and her great-aunts.

Hambrick is accused of stabbing the girl and trying to let her bleed to death for hours before resorting to suffocation.

In a warrant for his arrest, police said that Hambrick told them “God told him to murder his child so the state of Louisiana can kill him so he can be resurrected.”

The warrant says that despite Hambrick’s bizarre explanation for the killing, he said “he knew what he did was wrong.”

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The indictment averted a hearing scheduled for Thursday on Hambrick’s mental competency. Hambrick’s lawyer with the Orleans Public Defenders sought to have a judge declare him incapable of proceeding with the case for now.

Attorney Barksdale Hortenstine said Hambrick has been held in a special unit at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center for treatment of acute psychosis.

“To date, Mr. Hambrick retains a detailed, nuanced delusion regarding his death and resurrection as Christ explaining why God commanded him to kill his daughter," Hortenstine said. "Mr. Hambrick’s interactions with (his lawyer), as well as his desired outcomes for his case, are viewed entirely through the prism of this delusion.” 

The motion also hints that Hambrick wants to plead guilty. “Hambrick’s desired plea is determined exclusively by his delusions,” Hortenstine said.

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The killing in the 3100 block of North Rampart Street shocked neighbors and friends. Hambrick was an analyst for the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board. The girl’s mother, Monika Gerhart-Hambrick, is the director of Baton Rouge's Office of Community Development.

Hambrick’s attorneys still can seek to have him declared incompetent to stand trial, but they must do so at a later time in Criminal District Court.

Based on the date of the killing, the case will probably be allotted to Judge Robin Pittman. She oversaw the trial of Chelsea Thornton, a Gert Town mother accused of killing her two young children in 2012. Pittman in August found Thornton not guilty by reason of insanity.

Follow Matt Sledge on Twitter, @mgsledge.