Her neighbors in Plano, a suburb of Dallas, said she appeared to be a caring mother. But in reality, Dena Schlosser used a knife to amputate the arms of her eleven-month-old daughter and sang Christian hymns while waiting for the police. The authorities uncovered a gruesome scene after the baby’s father called a nursery and asked its employees to check on the status of his wife and daughter. Hours after her arrest, police heard repeatedly chanting: “Thank you Jesus. Thank you, Lord”.
Here are the events that led to the attack, and what immediately followed.
Dena Schlosser: 12 Skin Crawling Things About Her Life
1. Why did Dena Schlosser kill her daughter?
On November 22, 2004, a not-so-ordinary mother used a knife to amputate the arms of her 11-month-old daughter, Margaret, who died as a result. And yet when it came to her sentencing, she was found not eligible to go to jail for reasons of insanity and even released as an outpatient.
Here’s why: One day after giving birth to her daughter Margaret, Dena attempted suicide which led to her being diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychotic features for which she was hospitalized in a psychiatric ward.
As a new mother, she had been questioned and diagnosed earlier that year by the Texas Child Protective Service (CPS) after being hospitalized for a psychotic episode. The CPS ordered that she could not be alone with her children. Her husband’s sister would have to live with them until the CPS lifted the order. Psychologist David Self testified that Dena told him about some disturbing news that he had seen. The news concerning a boy who was mutilated by a lion was interpreted by this new mother as a sign of the coming apocalypse. He said she heard God ordering her to cut off Margaret’s arms and then cut off her own.
2. Dena Schlosser also had other children:
After Dena’s arrest, her children were picked up by CPS and kept in foster care. Authorities said two other older daughters in the family, ages 6 and 9 in 2008, were at the school when police arrived. They added that the father of the family was at work.
3. The mutilation was later described as a “religious frenzy”:
As a psychology student, Dena Schlosser self-determined that she was battling postpartum psychosis and according to the law was found not guilty for reasons of insanity and was admitted to North Texas State Hospital and ordered to remain there until it was deemed that she was no longer a threat to herself or others. Here, she was a roommate of Andrea Yates, a Texas woman who had drowned her five children in a bathtub.
4. The creepiest 9-1-1 call from Dena Schlosser:
A 911 operator who was on the phone with Dena Schlosser questioned if there was an emergency and Schlosser calmly replied, “Yes.”
“What exactly happened?” Asked the operator according to 911 recordings released by police.
“I cut off her arms,” Schlosser replied, as the Christian hymn “He Touched Me” played in the background.
“Did you cut off her arms?” He repeated.
“Aha,” she replied.
Officers and paramedics who reached the Schlosser family’s apartment found the mother Dena, covered in blood, sitting in her living room. The baby was armless in her crib in a room, but still alive. The girl died shortly after at a nearby hospital.
5. Margaret’s death could have been avoided if her dad let Dena give the child to Doyle Davidson:
Dena Schlosser came to believe that Margaret (who was a baby) was destined to marry Doyle Davidson, a veterinarian who had become her pastor. The day before attacking Margaret, Dena told her husband that she wanted to give the baby to Pastor Davidson. Later that day, according to a confidential CPS report, he whipped her with a wooden spoon in front of her children and mortally wounded Margaret, while their other two daughters were not damaged.
6. Speaking of Doyle Davidson, he led the Agua de Vida Church:
During the trial, much attention was drawn to Dena and her husband attending Agua de Vida Church, a charismatic church led by Davidson. She had been taking antipsychotic medications for several years prior to Margaret’s death.
But the Christian pastor Davidson believed that mental illness was demonic, and this belief partly led Dena’s husband not to buy her medications regularly. Under oath, Davidson testified that, in his opinion, all mental illnesses are demonic at heart. Due to the protest from viewers after the trial, the religious television program was canceled Davidson everywhere outside of the Metroplex.
7. Dena’s husband lost custody of his kids and also divorced Dena:
Dena’s husband underwent a psychological evaluation after Dena’s arrest.
It turns out that her ex-husband, unsurprisingly, was diagnosed with “narcissistic personality traits” in his psychological report.
It also mentioned that the father did not do enough to protect his daughters from his mentally ill wife. The Child Protection Service said they would only allow him to regain custody of the girls on the condition that his sister lived with the family, and she was required to complete psychotherapy and take parenting classes. He got engaged and got the girls back at his home.
He later filed for divorce. As part of the divorce agreement, Dena was prohibited from having contact with him or his daughters again.
8. Dena Schlosser ironically studied psychology:
At the age of eight, Dena Schlosser was diagnosed with hydrocephalus which means she had eight surgeries to implant shunts in her brain, heart, and abdomen before she was 13 years old. Her schoolmates made fun of her shaved head, and yet she graduated from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, with a BA in psychology, ironically.
Another irony was the fact that before his heinous crime, she worked at Children’s World Learning Center in Plano.
9. Her husband John Schlosser never let her work:
When Dena went to study at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, she fell in love with a man called John Schlosser as he was also a student at the Marists. He would go on to be her future husband. She graduated from the Marists, but he did not. They eventually moved to Texas, where he did not allow her to work.
10. She was charged with murder, but avoided prison:
On November 6, 2008, it was announced that Dena would soon be discharged from outpatient care. The order required that she see a psychiatrist once a week, take medication, take doctor-approved contraceptives, and have no unsupervised contact with children.
11. Where is Dena Schlosser now?
In April 2010, it was reported that Dena relapsed after Richardson firefighters spotted her walking down the street at 2 a.m.
The mother who cut off her daughter’s arm was out of public attention until 2012. She was thrown into the spotlight once again when she was discovered working under her maiden name, Laettner in a Walmart in Terrell.
Within hours, she was fired.
12. A history of serious mental illness left undiagnosed:
Child protection authorities said the mother had a history of signs of postpartum depression, but there were never any signs of violence.
“There was never any indication of violence in this family,” said agency spokeswoman Marissa González, who described the children as healthy and happy.
In January, agency employees were asked to come to the family’s home after Schlosser was seen running down the street, with one of her daughters riding a bike behind her, authorities said. When the officers arrived, one of the daughters stated that her mother had left her 6-day-old sister alone in the apartment.
Dena Schlosser appeared to be suffering from postpartum depression and a psychopathic episode at the time according to Gonzalez.
Schlosser was hospitalized and later agreed to seek help, so she saw a psychiatrist, Gonzalez said.
“At the time we closed the case, we had been assured that the mother had been stabilized and did not pose a risk to herself or her daughters,” said Geoff Wool, a spokesman for the Department of Family and Protective Services.