PAINESVILLE, Ohio (AP) — A woman accused of killing her disabled son by setting their home on fire was convicted Friday of aggravated murder and other charges in his death.
Prosecutors contend Lisa Henry had doused her son Michael, who had cerebral palsy, with gasoline and then tried to commit suicide by slitting her own wrists because she was a depressed housewife who snapped.
A jury in Lake County Common Pleas jury deliberated for about five hours before returning verdicts of guilty on charges of aggravated murder, murder, child endangering and aggravated arson.
Henry's lawyer David McGee said he will appeal the verdicts, calling them ``a travesty of justice.'' Henry, 48, of Perry Township, had claimed insanity on the aggravated arson count, but said she had found her son dead before the fire and was innocent of the other charges.
``I would never do that,'' Henry testified Thursday, regarding the murder of her son. ``I raised this little boy for 26 years. There's no way, no way.''
The morning of the fire on Sept. 13, Henry said, she went into Michael's room to check on him and found him dead in his room.
``When I went in, I could tell something wasn't right. He was cold. His heart wasn't beating,'' she said, choking with sobs. ``I can't remember anything else from that morning. I just remember being in the hospital and they were pushing on my chest.''
She said she has no memory of setting the house on fire after she found her son and no memory of leaving a suicide note.
Defense attorney David McGee asked her why she would endanger her 1-, 2- and 3-year-old grandchildren, who were home when she set the house on fire. Henry and the grandchildren were rescued by her husband.
``I would never hurt my grandchildren intentionally, never,'' she said. I don't have any recollection of it at all.''
Dr. Phillip J. Resnick, a forensic psychologist from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, backed up Henry's insanity claim.
Resnick diagnosed the defendant as having a major depressive episode with dissociative features. He also testified that her amnesia is genuine.
When Henry lost her mother to cancer in January 2005, she never fully recovered. Finding her beloved son dead the next year pushed her over the edge, according to the doctor.
Resnick's testimony was challenged by two clinical psychologists, including James Eisenberg, a well-established forensic psychologist who has studied under Resnick.
Both agreed with Resnick that Henry was depressed, and that she had a significant memory loss. But they said she was able to understand the wrongfulness of the arson — the legal standard for determining insanity in Ohio.
``Though she was depressed, there was no psychotic, delusional, bizarre thing,'' said Eisenberg, a psychology professor at Lake Erie College in Painesville. ``She certainly knew it was wrong to commit criminal acts.''
Prosecutors presented witnesses who testified that Michael Henry had no illnesses or injuries that could have caused his death before the fire.
Dr. Charles Yowler, director of MetroHealth Medical Center's burn unit in Cleveland, disagreed.
``The findings of normal carbon monoxide levels and the lack of soot in his lungs or trachea is not consistent with him being alive before the fire,'' Yowler said.