BANGOR, Maine — A woman charged with killing her daughter has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and waived her right to a jury trial, according to the Maine attorney general’s office.
Leanna Norris, 25, of Auburn, formerly of Stetson, allegedly drugged her 2½-year-old daughter, put duct tape on the girl’s face and then suffocated her before attempting suicide herself.
Loh Melody Grenda died the evening of June 23, 2013, in Newport and her body was discovered early the next morning inside a car in Stetson, according to court documents.
Norris changed her plea on Wednesday at the Penobscot Judicial Center and asked to have Superior Court Justice Ann Murray decide if she is guilty, Assistant Attorney General Deb Cashman said Friday.
The trial is scheduled to begin Monday, Oct. 27, and last five days, the prosecutor said.
Efforts to reach defense attorney Martha Harris of Bangor were unsuccessful Friday.
Norris pleaded not guilty to intentional or knowing murder on July 5, 2013. She has been held without bail at the Penobscot County Jail since her arrest two days earlier.
The mother drove her daughter to Durham Bridge Road in Newport about 8:45 p.m. June 23, 2013, and gave her “two or three syringes of Benadryl to make her go to sleep,” the affidavit written by Detective Thomas Pickering of the Maine State Police and filed in connection with an application for a search warrant said.
Benadryl is an antihistamine that can be used as a sleep aid.
“Leanna Norris put black Gorilla [duct] tape on Loh Grenda’s mouth and nose; that Leanna Norris put a blanket over Loh Grenda’s face so she would not have to look at Loh’s eyes,” the affidavit states. “Leanna Norris said that she killed Loh Grenda; that Leanna Norris put her hand over Loh Grenda’s face and suffocated her.”
She then removed the duct tape from her daughter’s face, “so it would not look so horrible,” according to the document.
Norris then drove to a cemetery in Stetson “where she took pills and put tape on her face in order to kill herself,” the affidavit states.
The pills were from a bottle of Advil, Norris later told her mother, according to the affidavit.
Norris fell asleep but awoke and vomited and then called her father about 2:50 a.m. June 24 from the cemetery.
“Leanna told him that she killed her baby and she wanted to die,” the court documents state.
A few minutes later she pulled into her parent’s Pleasant Road driveway in Stetson, and her father found his granddaughter’s body in the front seat bundled in a blanket. He called 911.
If convicted of murder, Norris faces between 25 years and life in prison. Norris would be committed to Riverview Psychiatric Hospital in Augusta if Murray finds her not guilty by reason of insanity.
BDN writers Nok-Noi Ricker and Nick McCrea contributed to this report.