NEWPORT — A woman accused of negligently contributing to the death of her children on a highway must be medicated to stand trial, a psychologist concluded.
Michael Rogers III, 10, and Princess Logan, 3, were fatally struck in the early morning hours of Sept. 15, 2020, by a tractor-trailer in the southbound lane of U.S. 67, near the Jackson-Craighead County line, according to previous Sun reporting.
Their mother, Latoya Taylor, 27, of Marion, is being held in the Jackson County Detention Center on a $20,000 cash bond on suspicion of first-degree endangering of a minor. In his client’s defense, attorney Christopher Jester requested criminal responsibility and fitness to proceed examinations.
A week prior to the fatal crash, Taylor was admitted for three days to a St. Bernards facility for “psychotic symptoms.”
“She had tangential thought processes and was expressing hyper-religious delusions. … She had several inpatient admissions in the past year,” it read. “In the past, she had been aggressive, hypersexual and non-adherent with treatment.”
Taylor told the examiner that she was in a manic state the day of the collision, noting that she impulsively “bought everything I thought was pretty.” Before heading home, she intended to pick up some shirts someone made for her in Jonesboro, but got lost and ended up in Newport.
Arkansas State Police found several Facebook videos showing the mother “driving recklessly” with the children in the vehicle, Sgt. Josh Heckel wrote in the affidavit.
“Around 10 p.m., she said she just wanted to go home and she wasn’t even supposed to be in Newport. She was running out of gas and driving around. She went to a store to get gas but thought she didn’t have money,” Dr. Kristi Ketz wrote.
ASP reported that $260 in cash was seen plainly in her vehicle when they responded to the crash. They were on the side of the road for approximately four hours.
At some point, Taylor said she took off her clothes and instructed her son to do the same and “she did not know why she did this.”
“They then ran to the other side of the road to wave down cars. … She said her son’s arms were wrapped around her daughter and then she felt ‘a whoosh like something passed me real fast,’” the examination read.
Taylor was admitted into Compass in Newport from the scene. Two days later, police arrested her on a warrant.
“It never crossed my mind they would be hit by an 18-wheeler. … I was just trying to get help,” Taylor said.
The examiner concluded that Taylor had “an active mental disease” around the time of the crash. She wrote that Taylor has schizophrenia and experienced a single, moderate episode of depressive disorder following the death of her children.
“The defendant did not have the capacity to have the culpable mental state required to establish an element of the alleged offenses,” Ketz wrote. “She was experiencing paranoia, disorganized thinking, hyper-religiosity, poor judgment and a disconnection from reality. … It is this examiner’s opinion that the defendant’s mental disease causes a lack of capacity to appreciate the criminality and dangerousness of her conduct at the time.”
Taylor’s mental health didn’t impact her fitness to be examined, noting that she understood the legal process and could help in her defense.
“It is recommended that the defendant stay on psychotropic medication to maintain fitness as this could change if she stopped her medication,” the examination read.
Her trial has not been scheduled due to the previously pending evaluations and ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The Supreme Court of Arkansas announced Thursday that its suspension of jury trials will end May 1.