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Mansfield mom ruled insane in baby's death

FORT WORTH -- Valeria Maxon believed that she was a witch and that her 1-year-old son, Alex, was the Antichrist. She was certain that her only child was possessed by the devil, was dying and would start the Apocalypse and bring about the end of the world.

Soon, according to psychologists who later examined Maxon, she became convinced that water was the only thing that could keep the evil spirits away and save the world.

So on June 30, 2006, while her husband was out running errands, Maxon put her son in the hot tub in the back yard of their Mansfield home and let him drown.

And even now -- nearly two years later -- Maxon thinks she did the right thing

"She thought it was horrible but that it prevented the end of the world," psychologist Randy Price testified Thursday during Maxon's capital murder trial.

Later, state District Judge Wayne Salvant found Maxon, 33, not guilty by reason of insanity and ordered that she be sent to a maximum-security state mental hospital in Vernon for treatment rather than to prison for punishment.

"This has been a tragic situation," Salvant said. "I'm hoping Mrs. Maxon can get the help that is needed."

To be found not guilty by reason of insanity in Texas, defendants must prove that they suffer from a severe mental illness or defect and did not know their conduct was wrong at the time of their crime. In Maxon's case, no one -- including the prosecutors -- disputed that Maxon was legally insane when she drowned Alex.

"It is not my duty as a prosecutor to seek a conviction, but to see that justice is done," prosecutor Alana Minton said after the hearing. "I do believe that justice has been served today."

Maxon's defense attorney, Joetta Keene, said that her client is really a "gentle soul whose mental illness took over."

"That mental illness caused her to kill the love of her life," Keene said. "We are happy that the state and the judge saw that it was the mental illness that caused Alex's death and realized that Alex's mom loved him."

During the trial, which was decided by a judge, not a jury, a Texas Ranger, two psychologists and Maxon's sister testified about Maxon's deteriorating mental state, the drowning and a weird tape-recording that was found in the Maxons' Mansfield home.

According to the testimony, Valeria Maxon was living in Moldova in eastern Europe when she met her husband, Michael Maxon, through a dating service. She moved to the United States, and, on June 12, 2005, their son, Alex, was born.

In March 2006, they learned that Alex was developmentally delayed, and soon after, Valeria Maxon's mental health began deteriorating.

"She became more and more anxious about Alex," Price testified. "She wasn't able to sleep and was extremely concerned about him and she began to develop delusional thoughts."

Psychologists testified that Maxon became convinced that her son was dying and that it was her fault because he needed her breast milk. She was certain Alex was possessed and would cause the end of the earth. She believed that God sent her a message, telling her water would prevent the end of the world and Alex's suffering.

Maxon was hospitalized at least five times, from May 16 through June 30, 2006, in psychiatric hospitals in Dallas, Florida and California. On June 6, 2006, she attempted suicide by overdosing on Ambien. Doctors diagnosed severe depression with psychotic features and told Michael Maxon not to leave her alone with Alex.

But on June 30, 2006, Michael Maxon left to run errands, and when he returned home, Alex was lying dead and naked on the couple's bed. Officials said Michael Maxon called his wife's family in Europe, put away groceries and the dry cleaning, called a business partner and then dialed 911.

On Tuesday, Michael Maxon, 54, was charged with abandoning/endangering a child. Investigators accused him of leaving Alex alone with Valeria, knowing she was mentally unstable.

At Thursday's trial, psychologists testified that they believe that Michael Maxon exacerbated his wife's mental condition. Police found a tape in the house in which Michael Maxon can be heard repeatedly chanting negative thoughts. He told police he played it for his wife as "therapy" when she was extremely depressed.

"It's all so deliciously tragic," Maxon says over and over in a singsong voice. "It's all my fault. I really screwed up. I'm the mother; no one understands me. If I'm miserable, the whole world has to be miserable. Nobody understands. Our son is riding the short bus. It's all my fault."