RACINE — A woman who pleaded not guilty by reason of mental defect (NGI) to allowing her adult disabled son to die after a fall is seeking a second opinion on a psychiatrist’s determination NGI was not warranted.
Dr. Jenna Goebel examined the defendant and reported to the court she could not support an NGI defense for Cheryl Christensen, 63, who was charged with negligently subjecting an at-risk individual to abuse/causing death.
The 46-year-old man suffered brain and physical injuries after being struck by a car when he was 14 years old. At the time of his 2020 death, he was in his mother’s care.
Carl Johnson, who represents the defendant, was in court on Friday seeking sufficient funds for a second opinion.
Judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz balked at the proposed $8,000 request, noting a second opinion was not required in the matter.
He approved the expenditure but only up to $5,000.
The jury trial scheduled for Aug. 22 was removed from the court’s calendar.
Competency and NGI
Christensen’s case has been repeatedly delayed due to competency issues. However, competency is different from NGI (“Not guilty by reason of insanity”).
Competency requires the defendant to be able to understand the charges against them and assist in their own defense.
NGI concerns the defendant’s state of mind at the time of the alleged crime.
To be found NGI, the defense must prove the defendant had a mental defect and as a result could not appreciate the wrongfulness of their actions and was unable to conform their behavior to the legal standard.
The Racine Police Department was dispatched to the 2600 block of West Crescent Street on Oct. 28, 2020, for a welfare check on the 46-year-old disabled man living at the address.
According to the criminal complaint, relatives of the man contacted authorities because they had not seen him in a while, and were worried about his well-being and his mother’s mental health. They alleged Christensen had begun giving large donations to a preacher in Texas she watched on YouTube.
Allegedly, Christensen attempted to barricade the door to keep authorities from entering. However, they were able to get through the door.
Officers found the victim dead on the floor of the bathroom, covered with a blanket.
The defendant allegedly told officers her son had fallen out of bed several days prior. She described him as screaming in pain after the fall, and she believed he may have broken some ribs.
Christensen said she could not lift him to get him into his wheelchair, so she dragged him into the bathroom, gave him pills to ease the pain, and covered him with a blanket.
She brought him water and juice. On about the fourth day, he began to refuse the water and juice, according to the defendant.
Christensen allegedly told the police she did not call for help because she did not want her son to die in a hospital. She wanted him to die peacefully, she told officers.
She described his health as declining and added she believed he was “on his way out” anyway. However, relatives allegedly told officers the victim had been to the doctor the month before and was given a clean bill of health.
Officers noted a red line painted on the floor, a red cross painted onto the television, and red paint splattered on the wall. The doors were all marked with red Xs.
Christensen said the paint was necessary because “the home had a mad energy to it.” She allegedly believed there might be demons in the house.
A hearing in the case was scheduled for Oct 9, 1:30 p.m. The defendant is out of custody having made bail in March.
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