Couple to get competency exam in girl’s torture death

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Romulus — A Sumpter Township couple accused of torturing, burning and killing the woman’s 4-year-old daughter will be evaluated by doctors to determine if they are competent to stand trial.

Defendant Candice Diaz appears before Wayne County’s 34th District Court Judge David M. Parrott in his Romulas courtroom, Wednesday morning, January 31, 2018, for her video probable cause conference.

Candice Rena Diaz, 24, and her boyfriend, Brad Edward Fields, 28, appeared Wednesday via video during separate probable cause hearings before 34th District Court Judge David Parrott.

Diaz and Fields are charged with felony murder, second-degree murder, torture and first-degree child abuse in connection with the Jan. 1 death of Gabrielle Barrett.

During both hearings, Diaz’s attorney, Sarah Krause, and Fields’ attorney Timothy Wrather, requested 90-day stays so their clients can be examined by doctors to determine if they are mentally competent to stand trial.

The attorneys also asked for forensic reviews to determine if they were competent to waive their Miranda rights — an unusual request, according to the judge.

When Parrott asked Wrather why he asked for the latter evaluation, the attorney said: “I think we put it in there to make sure we cover all the bases, in case (Fields) made a statement at any point in the proceedings after this arrest.”

“That’s relevant how?” the judge replied. “A police officer is supposed to be a psychiatrist? I’m not sure (doctors) will do such an exam. I’ll order it, though.”

Both defendants will be referred to the Michigan Department of Human Services Center for Forensic Psychiatry in Saline for the evaluations.

Neither Diaz nor Fields spoke during the hearings, as they appeared on video from a room in the Wayne County Jail. During his hearing, Fields leaned forward in his seat throughout the proceedings, his face partially obscured from the camera.

Gabrielle’s great-grandfather Joseph Guest was among Gabrielle’s relatives who were in the courtroom Wednesday. They wore shirts bearing the victim’s photos, along with the message, “7/3/13-1/1/18” — her birth and death dates.

As he discussed the case, Guest’s eyes welled with tears.

“It’s just very difficult; you do what you can,” he said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see Gabby as much as we’d like to. No little girl should go through that.”

After Diaz’s hearing, Jerry Barrett, Gabrielle’s grandfather, said he was angry about the order to put the case on hold.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “They know they did it. They fled, got caught — and now they can’t stand a trial?”

During an earlier hearing, Wrather asked for mental treatment for both defendants. His requests for a $100,000 bonds were denied. Wrather said Fields suffers from mental illness.

Parrott on Wednesday continued the order for no bond.

Court records show Diaz also suffers from mental health issues stemming from when she was burned as a child. During the couple’s Jan. 20 arraignment, in which the couple pleaded not guilty, Magistrate Elizabeth DiSanto said she would request mental health treatment for them.

Police say Gabrielle was found severely burned New Year’s Day at a residence on Greenmeadow Drive in the Rawsonville Woods mobile home community near Willow Road.

Gabrielle Renea Barrett

Gabrielle was rushed to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital Ann Arbor, where she was pronounced dead. Her death was ruled as a homicide by the Washtenaw County Medical Examiner’s Office, which cited evidence of multiple traumatic injuries and battered child syndrome.

The medical examiner told authorities that Gabrielle’s death “was the worst child death case” he had seen in nearly three decades of practice, according to documents filed by the state with the Wayne County Juvenile Court.

The documents show Gabrielle had bruises all over her body and severe “burns on her legs from the knee down, on her buttocks, posterior to both elbows.” Gabrielle’s burns were so severe, her big toe reportedly fell off and melted skin was allegedly found in the bathtub.

Diaz claimed during an interview with state welfare officials her daughter burned herself while running a bath, according to the documents.

Diaz also claimed she put Gabrielle in a partially-filled bathtub and left her there while she made pancakes in the kitchen. When she returned, Diaz said she found her daughter submerged in the water up to her nose, state documents show.

Diaz said she tried to rescue her daughter, pulling her from the tub and administering CPR, according to the documents.

State authorities filed paperwork with the Wayne County Juvenile Court stating Diaz claimed she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety. Fields also said he’s been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, social anxiety, agoraphobia and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Authorities said in the petition that the defendants are not taking their medications and have not undergone counseling.

Earlier this month, the couple was extradited to Michigan from Georgia, where they had been in a county jail after their arrest Jan. 9.

Two days after Gabrielle’s death, Michigan child welfare officials filed a petition to terminate the couple’s parental rights to Diaz’s 1-year-old daughter, who is Gabrielle’s half-sister.

A preliminary examination is scheduled for Feb. 7.

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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN