CONROE, Texas — Attorneys for a nurse accused of fatally shooting a new mother and speeding away with the dying woman's infant son said she was confused and mumbling in court on Thursday, and they plan to review her mental state.
Verna McClain is facing a capital murder charge in the death of 28-year-old Kala Golden. Investigators said McClain, a mother of three, had suffered a miscarriage and was desperate to find a baby after telling her fiancÉ that she'd given birth to their child.
"It will take a while ... for her to have an appreciation for what the situation is, if she ever does appreciate it," defense attorney E. Tay Bond said after the brief court hearing.
The judge delayed a bond hearing until Monday to give McClain's lawyers more time to review the case, and McClain will be held without bond until then. The capital murder charge carries a potential death sentence.
McClain is accused of shooting Golden in the parking lot of a suburban Houston pediatric clinic, then snatching Golden's 3-day-old son, Keegan Schuchardt. The infant was found safe hours later with McClain's sister, who told investigators that McClain told her she planned to adopt the boy.
McClain intends to plead not guilty, Bond said, adding that a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity was "certainly something we will be visiting."
Handcuffed around her waist and wearing a pink-and-white striped prison uniform, McClain spoke softly and looked down during the hearing. Texas District Judge Fred Edwards asked her several questions, including whether she owned a house or car, or had any savings, to which she responded, "No sir." McClain told the judge she understood the charge against her.
McClain is being held in a jail cell by herself under 24-hour watch, and Bond said he didn't believe any of her relatives had visited. Bond said he hopes McClain is granted a reasonable bond so she would take care of her three children, who are being looked after by a relative in Houston.
Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon said his office hasn't decided whether to seek the death penalty. Bond and McClain's other attorney, Stephen Jackson, said they didn't believe that punishment was appropriate.
"One of the things they have to prove is future dangerousness. When you have an isolated incident with somebody who has no prior criminal history, it is very difficult to prove that that person would be a future danger," Bond said.
The shootings occurred outside the Northwoods Pediatric Center in Spring, about 20 miles north of Houston, where McClain had taken her three children for checkups. But investigators believe Golden was randomly targeted.
Authorities said McClain parked next to Golden's vehicle, and as Golden was placing Keegan into her pickup truck, McClain repeatedly shot her, snatched the child from the truck and sped off. Witnesses reported that the dying woman leaned into McClain's vehicle and tried to take the boy back, screaming: "My baby!"
Golden died at a hospital. Her son has been reunited with family members.
McClain's estranged husband said he was shocked at the events of recent days.
"I can't believe she shot someone. That's not Vera," Theo McClain, of San Diego, told The Associated Press.
McClain is a vocational nurse at a local staffing agency, a job that involves providing basic nursing services under the direction of registered nurses and doctors. She holds vocational nursing licenses in California and Texas and has not faced disciplinary action in either state, according to licensing boards.
Associated Press writers Danny Robbins and Linda Stewart Ball in Dallas contributed to this report.