Mother accused of killing daughter ruled competent for trial
A Sumpter Township woman accused of torturing, burning and killing her 4-year-old daughter is mentally competent to stand trial, a judge ruled Wednesday during a hearing in 34th District Court in Romulus.
Candice Diaz, 25, and her boyfriend, Brad Fields, 28, are charged with felony murder, second-degree murder, torture and first-degree child abuse in connection with the Jan. 1 death of Diaz's daughter Gabrielle Barrett.
Diaz and Fields both claimed they had mental issues, and competency examinations were ordered. Fields was found competent, and is scheduled for trial in September.
After two competency examinations for Diaz — one by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Center for Forensic Psychiatry, the other by a doctor retained by her attorney David Cripps — the defendant was deemed mentally able to stand trial, Cripps said during Wednesday's hearing.
Chief Judge Tina Brooks Green ordered a Sept. 4 preliminary examination.
Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Bruce Elsey told the judge the exam would likely be lengthy. "The prelim for the co-defendant (Fields) had seven witnesses and lasted six-and-a-half hours," he said.
Green said Diaz's exam won't take as long. "I’m telling you right now, it's not going to last six-and-a-half hours with me," she said. "There are a number of things I'll have you stipulate to. It's a probable cause hearing, not a trial, so I'm not going to go through things that should be stipulated to."
Diaz, clad in a black T-shirt bearing the message "Overcome Hunger with Love," and blue pajama pants with pictures of unicorns and rainbows on them, stood silently during the brief hearing, hands folded in front of her.
After the proceedings, Cripps said: "At the prelim, the defense will pursue any possible defenses, and keep the prosecution to prove the case to the standards that are required."
On New Year's Day, Gabrielle's relatives found her unresponsive and in cardiac arrest in the bathroom of Diaz's mobile home. They called police, and when officers arrived they found the relatives performing CPR.
The girl was rushed to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital Ann Arbor and pronounced dead.
Gabrielle had bruises all over her body and severe "burns on her legs from the knee down, on her buttocks, posterior to both elbows," according to a January Michigan Department of Health and Human Services report.
The girl was so badly scalded, one of her big toes fell off her body, state officials said. Michigan State Police investigators found a "a large amount of melted skin in the bathtub drain," the Health and Human Services report said.
Police searched for Diaz and Fields for more than a week before they were captured in Georgia.
After her arrest, Diaz told state officials her daughter had burned herself after running a bath on New Year's Eve. She also claimed she put Gabrielle in a half-filled bathtub and left her there to make pancakes in the kitchen.
When she returned to the bathroom, she claimed she found the little girl submerged in the water up to her nose, officials said. Diaz said she pulled Gabrielle out of the tub, and that her boyfriend attempted to perform CPR, according to a state petition to revoke Diaz's parental rights.
The Washtenaw County Medical Examiner who performed the autopsy told police that Gabrielle's death "was the worst child death case" he had seen in 27 years of practice, according to state documents.
Diaz told state officials she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety. Fields said he has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, social anxiety, agoraphobia and post-traumatic stress disorder.