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The Globe and Mail

Woman held in beating deaths of sons

Associated Press, Globe and Mail, Tuesday, May. 13, 2003, Page A15

TYLER, TEX. -- A woman accused of fatally beating two of her sons with rocks spent Mother's Day sobbing and muttering in a jail cell.

Deanna LaJune Laney, 38, remained on suicide watch yesterday at Smith County Jail, where she was held in lieu of a $3-million (U.S.) bond on capital-murder and aggravated-assault charges.

Ms. Laney is accused of killing Joshua Laney, 8, and Luke Laney, 6, and injuring their 14-month-old brother, Aaron. The toddler remained in critical condition yesterday at a Dallas Hospital.

In a call to emergency workers early Saturday, Ms. Laney reported that she had just "bashed their heads in with a rock," Sheriff J. B. Smith said.

When they arrived at the home, sheriff's deputies found Joshua and Luke dead in the yard. They were wearing only their underwear and had large rocks on top of their bodies. Aaron was found in his crib with a pillow over his face, alive but bleeding.

Wearing bloodstained pyjamas, Ms. Laney told the first deputy on the scene "I had to" when he took her into custody, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by The Tyler Morning Telegraph.

Sheriff Smith said Ms. Laney acted erratically Sunday during interviews with investigators.

"Sometimes she is incoherent, sometimes she's in a fetal position and sobbing. Sometimes she's singing spiritual hymns or muttering about God. And sometimes she has a flat-liner [poker] face and not saying a thing during interviews," Sheriff Smith said.

"But she has not spoken of the crime anyRead More ..She said it all on the 911 tape. She said she had killed her children."

Ms. Laney, he said, claimed that God had ordered her to kill her sons.

The deaths were announced Sunday to more than 200 members of the First Assembly of God Church, where Ms. Laney sang in the choir and her brother-in-law, Gary Bell, is pastor. He told parishioners that he and his wife, Judy, would stand behind Ms. Laney.

Another Texas woman, Andrea Yates of Houston, confessed to drowning her five children in a bathtub in June of 2001 and was convicted of murder.

The jury rejected defence pleas that Ms. Yates was innocent by reason of insanity. She was sentenced to life in prison and is not eligible for parole until 2041.

2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved