The Oak Ridge grandmother facing the death penalty in a first-degree murder case will be taken to a psychiatric hospital where her competency and mental health can be evaluated, according to Anderson County court records.
The defendant, Valerie Stenson, 53, is currently being held at the Tennessee Prison for Women in Nashville. She will be taken to Moccasin Bend Psychiatric Hospital in Chattanooga for an intake scheduled for 1:30 p.m. January 17, according to an order filed in Anderson County Criminal Court in Clinton on Wednesday, January 3.
A two-week trial for Stenson had been scheduled for December 2017, but it was canceled and a mental health evaluation was ordered. It’s not clear if or when the trial will be rescheduled.
Court orders filed in August and October called for a psychiatric evaluation of Stenson and a referral to Moccasin Bend, where experts can determine her competency to stand trial and her mental condition at the time of the crime (the insanity defense).
Stenson had previously been evaluated by State of Tennessee experts and determined to be competent to stand trial and to help with her defense.
But the order filed in Anderson County Criminal Court in August said a psychologist employed by Stenson was unable to complete an evaluation “due to the agitated state and mental health of the defendant. The expert did determine that the defendant is paranoid, delusional, and terrified, and when asking general questions about her case, the defendant began speaking in tongues and was unable to answer any questions from that point on or participate in the evaluation.”
The next order, filed in October, said Ridgeview Psychiatric Hospital in Oak Ridge had referred Stenson to the Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute in Chattanooga for a maximum of 30 days.
An evaluation of competency to stand trial will determine whether Stenson has the ability to cooperate with her attorneys in her own defense, whether she is aware of and understands the criminal proceedings, and whether she understands the consequences.
An evaluation of mental condition at the time of the crime, the insanity defense, will determine whether Stenson was unable to appreciate the nature of the alleged crimes at the time they were committed and that they were wrong.
The results of the evaluation are to be reported back to Anderson County Criminal Court. It’s not clear how long that might take.
Stenson was charged with first-degree murder in the April 17, 2011, death of Manhattan Inman, her toddler granddaughter. The child was found dead in a home on Teller Village Lane, and the Anderson County Grand Jury indicted Stenson for first-degree murder and four counts of aggravated child abuse and neglect on March 6, 2012. Aggravating circumstances in the death-penalty murder case included the age of the child and the age of the defendant; the heinous, atrocious, or cruel nature of the alleged crime; and the fact that the alleged murder was committed while Stenson was committing or was attempting to commit, or was an accomplice in, another major crime.
In 2013, Stenson was indicted on new charges: nine counts of aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect, and aggravated child endangerment in cases involving three other children. Those charges were filed September 3, 2013. They included three counts each of aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect, and aggravated child endangerment.
Those offenses allegedly occurred between April 15, 2010, and April 15, 2011, and all three victims were under 18, the indictments said. The indictments said the abuse caused serious bodily injury to the children, or caused injury and the abuse was “especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel, or involved the affliction of torture.”
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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