The fate of a day-care provider who pleaded guilty to attempted murder for trying to hang a 16-month-old child was debated Monday in Hennepin County District Court.
A psychiatrist called by prosecutors testified that Nataliia M. Karia’s actions were not with “evil intent or a criminal mind-set,” but she understood what she was doing and could be treated in prison.
However, a psychiatrist and psychologist called by Karia’s defense attorneys said her crime was triggered by depression, stress from overwork and an abusive husband, and it would be better to place her on long-term probation and treat her as an outpatient.
Judge Jay Quam questioned the witnesses and will ultimately decide Karia’s sentence. Sentencing is set for July 16.
On Nov. 18, 2016, a parent of another child in Karia’s day care discovered the boy in the basement, hanging loosely from a pair of tights around his neck.
Karia, 43, pleaded guilty in February to second-degree attempted murder. She also pleaded guilty to third-degree assault and two counts of criminal vehicular operation after she fled the house in her minivan, hitting a car and a bicyclist and dragging a pedestrian through the street.
The child suffered neck burns but recovered. The man who was dragged through the street had permanent injuries and can work only part time.
According to defense attorney Brockton Hunter, court-appointed psychologist Linda Berberoglu concluded last year that Karia met the legal standard to be found not guilty by reason of mental illness.
However, the county attorney’s psychiatrist, Dr. Shane Wernsing, found she did not meet the standard, Hunter said. An insanity defense is difficult to prove in a criminal trial.
Hunter then brought in Dr. Jennifer Service, a psychiatrist and former director of forensic medical services at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter, who said Karia’s condition was much more manageable than the mental illness of patients at the St. Peter facility, and placement there was not appropriate.
Now in private practice, Service testified Monday that Karia could be better treated as an outpatient rather than at the Minnesota Correctional Facility at Shakopee, a women’s prison.
“I would monitor her closely,” Service said.
Gregory Hanson, a psychologist called by the defense, said probation would be the “ideal situation.” Karia’s son has testified earlier that she’d live with him, not her husband, and would work in the son’s real estate business.
Wernsing testified that a prison sentence was justified. While Karia suffered from mental illness, it did not affect her ability to control her own actions. He said that parents dropping their children off the day of the incident did not notice anything unusual.