Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Thomas D. Zeff determined Tuesday that the sanity of Jennifer Lynn Bigham, 25, had been legally restored and she could be released from custody because she no longer required treatment.
Zeff previously had ruled Dec. 7 that Bigham was insane on Jan. 14, 2010 when she drowned her 3-year-old daughter Alexandrea in the bathtub of a home on Thrush Street, and was therefore not guilty.
“The only evidence before the court is that she has fully restored her sanity,” Zeff said in his ruling Tuesday. “She must be discharged forthwith.”
Stanislaus County Deputy District Attorney Elaine Casillas said she was going to appeal, which could take years.
“We wanted her to be evaluated further,” Casillas said. “(Zeff) is not even asking for her to be evaluated further for outpatient treatment.”
The judge heard testimony for two hours from two psychological experts, who both had concluded that Bigham had restored her sanity, though they said she was depressed as she deals with the loss of her child and with life after incarceration. Both psychologists said her depression was normal considering her circumstances.
Dr. Phillip Trompetter indicated that Bigham, who has been off anti-psychotic medication since Jan. 24, 2012, was no longer showing any more symptoms of mental illness, when questioned about the matter by Defense Attorney Marlon Simon.
Both Trompetter and Dr. Jocelyn Roland had previously evaluated Bigham’s sanity at the time of the murder and found she was temporarily insane due to a psychotic episode brought on by severe depression.
Casillas said in court that the reports indicated Bigham heard voices while watching the movie “Cars” that told her to kill both her baby and herself to avoid the end of the world and that she believed at the time she was Jesus.
There had been two previous episodes of severe depression — right after Alexandrea was born and at the time of the murder, Tropetter said.
“There is no way to know if another episode could occur,” Trompetter told the court while being questioned by Casillas. “It is virtually impossible to predict whether she has another substantial episode.”
Zeff later asked Roland whether she had an opinion about whether Bigham was a danger to herself or others, and Roland said she did not have an opinion.
Casillas argued that the court was not using a stringent enough test as to whether Bigham had restored her sanity or was fully sane and there was a question as to whether she was still a danger to society.
Simon said the decision was difficult, but if sanity had been fully restored as the two experts testified, then Bigham should be released.
“That is the law, the rule of law,” he said.
The Stanislaus County District Attorney’s office previously had charged Bigham with murder, child abuse resulting in death and battery on a paramedic after the 2010 drowning at a relative’s home on Thrush Drive.
Casillas revealed in court Jan. 8 that on the night of the drowning relatives were unable to reach either the child or Bigham, as Bigham was in a locked master bedroom of the home. The 20- and 15-year-old relatives told police they heard the child say “no, no” and then struggle in the bathtub.
When police finally gained entry into the room they found Bigham wet with a stab-wound to her chest and Alexandrea in a bathtub.
Emergency crews responded at about 6 p.m. that evening. Paramedics administered CPR, and the girl was flown by helicopter to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto, according to sheriff’s officials. Doctors continued to attempt life-saving measures on the girl at the hospital, but she was declared dead at 9:50 p.m.
Bigham was treated at a Modesto hospital for superficial, self-inflicted stab wounds to her chest that night and released into custody the next day.
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