A Las Vegas woman was found guilty of first-degree murder but mentally ill Thursday for fatally stabbing her 6-year-old daughter with a pair of scissors.
The verdict means that Danielle Slaughter should receive special treatment or medication while in prison, but her potential sentence would remain the same as anyone convicted of first-degree murder, according to her attorneys, Julia Murray and Joseph Abood.
After a five-day bench trial, in which a judge weighs the evidence instead of a jury, District Judge Elissa Cadish found that Slaughter’s actions were not “willful, deliberate” or “premeditated” when she stabbed Kyla Franks 15 times.
Defense attorneys had asked the judge to find Slaughter guilty of second-degree murder. But Nevada law automatically defines child killings as having occurred as a result of abuse, which resulted in Slaughter’s first-degree murder conviction.
Abood said the facts in Slaughter’s case are unique, and he plans to appeal the verdict. Her attorneys argued that in March 2012 her undiagnosed mental illness was exacerbated by the dietary aid Hydroxycut, which contains high levels of caffeine and kept her awake for long hours.
“She’s delusional and mentally ill,” he said. “She didn’t intend any kind of abuse. … She did what she did under delusions brought on by her mental illness and the use of this Hydroxycut.”
Prosecutors agreed that Slaughter is mentally ill, but said she had the capacity and intent to kill her child.
“We believe that when you kill a kid, you’re on the hook for first-degree murder,” Chief Deputy District Attorney John Giordani said. “Kids are arguably the most vulnerable victims, and the child abuse felony murder law rightfully increases the severity of the punishment for those who murder children during the act of child abuse. Whether the abuse is ongoing or a single act, if a child dies because of it, that is first-degree murder.”
It’s unclear whether Slaughter suffers from bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, Abood said.
Kyla was a kindergartner at Bell Elementary School, while her mother was in her first semester at the College of Southern Nevada.
According to a Las Vegas police report, Slaughter confessed to killing Kyla after hearing her daughter speak in an “evil” voice. She told detectives she had felt a dark presence in her home for several days.
Sometime shortly after the killing, Slaughter was seen running naked, her hands covered in blood, on Vegas Drive near Jones Boulevard, about 2 miles from her home.
Police were not able to connect Slaughter to her daughter’s death for more than two hours, when Slaughter’s live-in boyfriend came home and found the girl’s body, near Vegas Drive and Tenaya Way.
Slaughter faces a minimum of 21 years behind bars at her August sentencing.
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After the killing, Danielle Slaughter was seen running naked about 2 miles from her home.
She was screaming, and her hands were covered in blood, although she was uninjured.
“The blood was from the lamb of God,” she told police who found her.